Is It Safe to Use Q-Tips or Cotton Swabs to Clean Your Ears? - Hear More Associates


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You’ve probably never noticed, but there’s a written warning on the back of every package of cotton swabs that goes something like this:

“Do not not use this product to enter the ear canal. It may cause injury.”

Take a peek at a package of cotton swabs if you have one handy. The issue is, not only doctors, audiologists, and hearing specialists advise against using cotton swabs to clean the ears—even cotton swab manufacturers think it’s a poor idea!

So why should cotton swabs be avoided if they are such a popular ear cleaning method? Why are the makers so adamant that you don’t utilize their product like this?

Continue reading to find out the answers.

Why Should You Not Clean Your Ears with Cotton Swabs?

Here are four reasons that cotton swabs may be doing more harm than good:

1. Earwax Is Necessary

While it may feel yucky, earwax serves a few practical purposes. It has antibacterial properties to prevent infections, insect repellent properties to keep pests out of your ears, and lubricative features to prevent dry, itchy skin.

2. Cotton Swabs Push Earwax up against the Eardrum 

Cotton swabs can be highly harmful. When you insert a foreign object into the ear canal, most earwax is pushed up against the eardrum which can cause an obstruction—or in severe cases, a rupture—resulting in hearing loss.

3. Earwax Self-destructs

The ear is designed to clear earwax on its own. The earwax will be moved to the outer ear by regular jaw motions, such as talking, eating, or yawning. All you have to do is shower regularly and clean the external ear with a cloth.

4. Excessive Earwax Removal can Cause Dryness

Because earwax has moisturizing and antibacterial properties, removing too much will leave you with a dry, itchy feeling and make you more prone to infections.

What’s the Worst-Case Scenario?

To put it bluntly, you risk rupturing your eardrum and losing your hearing permanently. Isn’t that terrifying? Because the eardrum is easily accessed with a swab, it is vulnerable to rupture, even if gentle pressure is used to remove material. When this happens, you’ll notice extreme pain and an apparent fluid leaking from your eardrum.

The eardrum will eventually mend, but it may cause “conductive hearing loss.” This indicates that sound transmission in the outer/middle ear is interrupted, and you won’t hear as well.

So, How Should You Clean Your Ears?

You may flush out your ears with commercial (and do-it-yourself) remedies, which is far safer than introducing foreign items into the ear canal. That said, difficulties hearing or excessive earwax are not normal, so seek the advice of a hearing specialist if you are experiencing these symptoms.

Hearing professionals are well-versed in the structure and function of the ear and can diagnose any earwax build-up or hearing loss you may be experiencing. It’s usually a good idea to rule out more serious issues, and if all that’s needed is cleaning, you’ll have the peace of mind that it’ll be done well.

When Should You Go to the Doctor for Earwax?

A trip to the doctor may be necessary for people who have a lot of wax build-up. Doctors may quickly eliminate ear wax with a bit of peroxide combined with water and injected into the ear. The procedure is almost painless and successful in removing affected wax. Ask your doctor how you can undertake the process yourself at home if excess wax becomes a concern.

What’s Next?

If you have a lot of wax in your ear canals or fear that wax is harming your hearing, you can visit Hear More Associates for comprehensive hearing tests. The exam will look into your ear, assess the issue, and select the best course of action. Schedule the most reliable hearing tests in Massachusetts today!

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