6 Reasons Why You Should Never Clean Your Ears with Cotton Swabs
Originally posted on June 26, 2015
Cotton swabs may cause injury to your ears
The cotton swab (Q-Tip) is probably the most common item used for cleaning wax or cerumen from your ears. Along with the cotton swab, people often use pretty much anything they can find that can fit in their ears, specifically the middle and inner ear.
But in an effort to maintain what is perceived to be a good level of hygiene are you risking damaging your precious hearing?
Some items doctors say patients report using for ear cleaning include cotton swabs (Q-Tips), hair pins, tweezers, pens, pencils, straws, paper clips, toys, and toothpicks. Using these items can further impact wax and cause irreparable damage.
Here are a few reasons to put all these pseudo cleaning implements down.
1. The ear is made up of a delicate eardrum that can be ruptured with even the slightest amount of pressure. Typically, a punctured eardrum can be painful, take some time to heal and can also lead to hearing loss. Putting a cotton swab – or anything else for that matter – in your ear can further impact wax or cause irreparable damage.
2. Ear wax or cerumen is actually good for your ears. It’s made up of dead skin and a sticky substance secreted from glands in the outer third of the ear canal. Cerumen has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Ear wax prevents excessive dryness, scaling, and itchiness. It’s actually a natural cleaner for your ear canal.
3. Do we even need to clean our ears? In most cases, people don’t really need to clean ear wax. For instance, the water that gets in your ears from showers and washing is enough to loosen the wax. The shape of your ear, growing in an outward spiral, allows cerumen to be sloughed off and come out on its own, usually in your sleep.
4. Some of us produce a heavier amount of cerumen build-up than others, so getting rid of it is more of a necessity. In this case, it’s advised that you visit an audiologist or a doctor. A health professional will be able to safely remove ear wax that can become impacted and even cause a decrease in your level of hearing.
5. Before visiting a health professional it’s often advised that patients soften the wax for a period of three to four days by applying a few drops of either mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, or a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water. Applying these wax softening/cleaning methods can also help you manage cerumen buildup at home.
6. Health professionals usually advise against an alternative practice known as ear candling. It involves removing excess wax via a hollow ear cone soaked in beeswax or paraffin. The hollow candle or cone is then inserted in the ear and lit at the top. As the cone is heated, the cerumen is supposed to soften and be pulled out. But health professionals advise that this practice can be hazardous, causing damage to the eardrum and ear canal, or setting fire to hair and skin.
Research suggests there is no medical benefit from ear candling.
Finally, it’s advised you should never stick anything in your ear canal, not even your fingers. The risk of further impacting wax or damaging your eardrum far outweighs the need to keep your ears “clean.”