There are new guidelines on earwax removal and the news is surprising: A panel of doctors from American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) suggest that you leave your ears alone unless you experience symptoms associated with too much earwax buildup. Earwax carries dirt, dust and other particles out of the ear.

“[Earwax] is not intrinsically evil stuff, and consequently does not have to be removed merely because it’s present,” says Peter Roland, an ear, nose and throat doctor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. “In fact, it serves a function, and so if you don’t need to take it out, you should just leave it alone.”

Too much earwax (impacted ears), however, can be problematic and can cause pain, pressure, ringing and, in some cases, hearing loss. If you clean your ears, the docs recommend not using cotton-tipped swabs and other similar objects. Instead, opt for saline drops or water to help loosen the wax. If drops don’t relieve symptoms, make a doctor’s appointment to get to the root of the problem.

Learn more about protecting your ears here.