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You’ve probably heard it before but let it go in one ear and out the other. Using cotton swabs to clean your ears can do more harm than good. If this is the case, why do many people still use cotton swabs to clean out their ears?
We’re not really sure who first came up with the idea of using cotton swabs to clean ears. Maybe it was the way they were marketed to us as soft, fluffy cotton on the end of a stick. How harmful could that be?
According to hearing specialists, they can be very harmful, and using cotton swabs is no longer the way to get our ears clean. From damaging the delicate inner ear lining to causing permanent hearing loss, cotton swabs are downright dangerous. Although it may be tempting to “clean” your ears with Q-tips, you may be doing more harm than good. Below are three reasons why you should ditch the cotton swabs.
Ear Wax Isn’t So Bad
The notion that you need to remove every bit of ear wax is no longer the norm. In fact, small amounts of ear wax actually protect your inner ears. It’s there for a reason and doesn’t need to be dug out with a cotton swab, no matter how gently you do it. Ear wax keeps dirt, dust and even bugs out of your ear canal, and stripping your ears removes that protective barrier.
Risk of Injury
Because the skin inside your ears is so thin, even sticking cotton swabs in there can cause serious injury. In addition to removing the protective barrier, pushing the swab too far inside the canal can perforate your eardrum. Even the slightest bump of your arm when cleaning your ears can permanently damage both the ear canal and the eardrum, which can lead to permanent hearing loss.
In addition to possible injury, continually using cotton swabs can cause your ears to itch. Scraping away the wax inside your ears can dry out the ear canal. Dry skin then leads to the scratch-itch cycle. The more you scratch, the more it will itch.
You Can Do More Harm Than Good
Ear wax is the ultimate anti-fungal and anti-bacterial barrier that fights off infection inside your ears. When you clean your ears with a cotton swab, you’ll probably see wax on it when you pull it out.
Yes, you were able to remove some of the wax, but you may also be pushing it deeper into the canal. Removing the superficial layer of wax doesn’t mean that you aren’t causing ear wax impaction. As you push the wax deeper into the canal, it can harden and become painful.
If this happens, you may have ear pain and/or feel like your ears are constantly clogged. To make matters worse, you might try to remove the wax and stick cotton swabs inside your ears again. This perpetual cycle does more harm than good. If your ears feel clogged or you begin to develop pain or hearing loss, you need to seek medical attention.
So, how exactly do you clean your ears if you can’t use cotton swabs? Your best bet is to use a wet washcloth to clean the outer ear canals and behind your ears, but you should really never stick anything inside your ears. Consider your ears like your oven: They are self-cleaning and able to take care of the dirty work. As tempting as it is, you should never put cotton swabs inside your ears.
Hearing care providers understand the anatomy and physiology of your ears and are trained to diagnose and treat hearing loss due to wax buildup. If you’re suffering from wax buildup or are experiencing hearing loss, we’re here to help. Contact us to speak to a licensed hearing loss specialist today.