Tips for IEM cleaning

As a professional musician, I’ve used IEMs (In-Ear Monitors) for many years now. They let me hear everything great as well as protect my hearing from loud stage levels, and they’re especially great for me since I’ve used digital modeling gear for decades now and don’t use an on-stage amp most of the time.

One difficulty with them is keeping them clean. Obviously this starts with your ears. I usually use an ear irrigation bottle to clean my ears before a gig. Usually just with water in the shower. Sometimes for a deep cleaning, I’ll pour a capful of hydrogen peroxide in one ear at a time, and let it do its work for a few minutes before turning over and letting it drain out on a tower. Please note I am not a doctor and I would definitely consult an audiologist or ENT before just listening to a guy on the internet.

Now despite trying to keep my ears clean, sometime your IEMs will still get some wax in them. They usually come with a small cleaning tool but it doesn’t go in very deep. Sometimes at a gig I’ll feel like one of my IEMs has stopped working but it’s always just blocked up and clearing the blockage brings everything back to normal. Recently I had a problem though in that some wax had gotten lodged deeper than the cleaning tool could reach. I managed to clear it with the gentle use of a pin but there was still some deep in there. I highly recommend getting translucent IEMs (mine are purple) as they allow to see inside them and know if there’s something lodged deep in there.

I have Cosmic Ears IEMs so I wrote to them asking what I should do. They told me I could send my IEMs to them (in the UK) and pay £50 for a “Deep Cleaning.” Naturally I did not want to spend that much plus shipping and be without my IEMs for an extended period of time. I started searching for other solutions. I found some “IEM Vacuums” online but they were all pretty expensive and with mixed reviews as to results. That’s when I discovered this simple, cheap hearing aid cleaning kit which seemed like just what I needed.

I really thought that it would be pretty tough to get that stuff out from deep in my IEMs and that I might risk pushing it in further, but I was pleasantly shocked at how easily I managed to gently maneuver the small flexible wire on one of the tools and easily pull some small wax chunks from deep down. I basically sat a bright LED flashlight on its end, held my transparent IEMs over it so I could see exactly what I was doing, and within a few minutes, I had them totally cleaned out!

Another tool that came in handy was a simple solder sucker similar to this one. I had one small chunk that I got near then end but couldn’t seem to coax out, and that solder sucker sucked it right out!

Obviously there are risks involved with everything mentioned here so be careful, gentle, and attempt at your own risk, but I was happy to find a good solution that worked for me that I could use regularly myself at home!

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