Yes Using A Cotton Swab To Clean Your Ears Really Is A Bad Idea
Having a lot of earwax build-up isnt ideal, but trust us: You wouldnt want to get rid of the sticky substance entirely even if you could. Earwax is made by glands in the outer part of the ear canal to help protect your ears from dust, germs, excessive water, and other questionable substances, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. So if you notice a little gunk in there, its understandable to want to clear out the area. Enter the cotton swab.
Its so tempting to dig out that wax yourself, but doctors say doing so is never a good idea. Your ear wont spontaneously combust from using cotton swabs to clean them, but there is a good chance you might injure yourself, Omid Mehdizadeh, MD, an otolaryngologist and laryngologist at Providence Saint Johns Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells SELF. The problem is that its really hard to see inside your ear, meaning theres no way of knowing what you might poke with that little stick of cotton. Think of it like this: Using a cotton swab to dig out ear wax is a little bit like driving a car while wearing a blindfold.
We typically see complications like people losing the cotton tip in the ear, traumatizing the ear canal and causing painful infections, or poking through the eardrum with a cotton swab, Dr. Mehdizadeh says. In addition to potentially setting the stage for an infection, puncturing your eardrum can lead to permanent hearing loss, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Do You Still Clean Your Ear With A Q
A new case study published in BMJ “reiterates the dangers of cotton bud use” to clean your ears, telling the story of a 31-year-old patient who suffered years of on-and-off hearing loss and ultimately was hospitalized for a seizureall because of a cotton swab that had been lodged in his inner ear years earlier.
Ear Drums Are Fragile
The eardrum is easily reached with a swab. Because the eardrum is so delicate, it can be easily ruptured by using even the gentlest pressure when using a swab. Ask anyone who has experienced a punctured eardrumit isnt a pleasant experience. The pain is severe and the ear may also leak a clear fluid. While a punctured eardrum will heal, it can take a while and can even lead to conductive hearing loss.
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The Strange Life Of Q
Years ago, my mother complained about a terrible earache. The pain was unbearable. And it wouldn’t go away for a week, she walked around with a debilitating ringing in her head.
Eventually, she recalled to me the other day, the discomfort led her to a doctor, who carefully pushed an otoscope into her ear. Within seconds, he pulled it out and looked her in the face.
“Have you been putting Q-tips in your ears?” he asked with a disapproving tone.
Like so many others, my mother had been using Q-tips to clean her ears. But in doing so she was also messing with a natural process. Her ear was hurting because she had an ear infection, and there’s a decent chance her routinely using Q-tips had helped cause it.
“Promise me something,” the doctor told her. “Promise me you’ll never put another Q-tip inside of your ear.”
Q-tips are one of the most perplexing things for sale in America. Plenty of consumer products are widely used in ways other than their core function books for leveling tables, newspapers for keeping fires aflame, seltzer for removing stains, coffee tables for resting legs but these cotton swabs are distinct. Q-tips are one of the only, if not the only, major consumer products whose main purpose is precisely the one the manufacturer explicitly warns against.
“People say they only use them to put makeup on, but we know what else they’re using them for,” he added. “They’re putting them inside their ears.”
No one told us not to
Q-tips are here to stay
Cholesteatoma Of The Ear
Cholesteatomas are an accumulation of dead tissue within the middle ear space. Eustachian tube dysfunction creates an environment of decreased pressure within the middle ear, which causes the eardrum to retract. When the drum retracts, it can create a space for the pocketing of debris. This pocket can grow and become a nest of infection that erodes surrounding bones. Cholesteatomas are associated with symptoms of chronic ear drainage, pain, fullness, hearing loss, and dizziness. The retraction pocket of a cholesteatoma can be identified during an office visit but usually requires a CT scan for full evaluation and diagnosis.
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Causes Of A Perforated Eardrum
A hole in the eardrum can be caused by:
- an ear infection
- an injury to the eardrum, such as a blow to your ear or poking an object like a cotton bud deep into your ear
- changes in pressure, such as while flying or scuba diving
- a sudden loud noise, such as an explosion
The following tips may help you avoid damaging your eardrum:
- see a GP for treatment if you have symptoms of an ear infection for more than 2 or 3 days
- do not push anything deep into your ears, including your fingers
- wear suitable ear protection if you’re often exposed to loud noises
- when flying, try swallowing, yawning, chewing gum or sucking on a boiled sweet during take-off and landing
Page last reviewed: 11 February 2020 Next review due: 11 February 2023
Why Are Q Tips Bad For Ears
The answer to the question are q tips for ears is definitely yes. Preventing earwax from coming out on its own can cause a blockage in the ear. Since the earwax that is wanted to be removed using Qtips is pushed into the ear, it can cause diseases such as hearing loss and ear fungus. Using qtips for a long time also causes ear infections.
Briefly, the dangers of using q tips in ears are
- Temporary or permanent hearing loss,
- Ear fungus,
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Use A Moistened Cotton Ball
This is the simplest method to removing small amounts of earwax. And chances are you have everything you need at home. Heres how to do it:
Ear Hearing & Balance Audiology Services
Keep in mind that you may need to repeat this wax softening and irrigation procedure several times before the excess earwax is cleared out. The softening can also cause wax to fall and become lodged deeper into the ear canal or against the ear drum. If symptoms do not improve, see a doctor. Other methods include earwax removal kits available in stores. If you believe you have a compaction of earwax or fear there has been potential damage, and our medical staff will assist you.
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Do I Need To Use An Ear Cleaner
It is highly recommended to use a good quality ear cleaner. Cleaners with hydrogen peroxide or alcohol can cause irritation within the ear canal, especially if the canal is inflamed or ulcerated. Some ear cleaners have antibacterial or antifungal ingredients to help prevent ear infections. Certain cleaners are also better at removing wax build-up. Your veterinarian can help you decide which ear cleaning solution is best for your pet.
What Do I Need To Clean My Dogs Ears
Cleaning your dogs ears does not require any special equipment. A good quality ear cleaning solution, some cotton balls or gauze, and some treats to reward your dog are all that is needed. Do not use cotton tip applicators , due to the risk of perforating the ear drum or causing trauma to the ear canal. In addition, the use of cotton tip applicators can push debris further into the ear canal.
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Bad Problems Caused By Dangerous Ear Qtips
Everybody makes ear wax, and it is an important part of our ear health. Our ears are built to self-clean, so it should be uncommon to have a need to clean out the wax. Typically, the excessive ear wax collects for a reason, and it might be best to see a physician to find out why it is occurring. But under NO circumstances should you EVER use those dangerous ear Qtips!
I remained surprised that people regularly still use dangerous ear Qtips despite the manufacturer posting an extremely clear caution. For many years, each box of Qtips warns Do not insert inside the ear canal. But everyone ignores this!
Since I love to teach, let me share the history of Qtips with you. Back in the 1920s, a man named Leo watched his wife struggle while cleaning their child. She was wrapping cotton on toothpicks to better reach the tiny areas. Being a loving and supportive husband, he invented Baby Gays which tightly wrapped cotton onto the tips of wooden sticks. So, there you have it! Qtips were initially made to reach into tiny baby areas, not the ears.
A few years after invention, the name was changed to Qtips where the Q stands for quality. For those of you dying to learn more about the Qtip story, check out this post for a more detailed timeline. The one thing missing from this timeline is that in 1970, a warning label was added to the box saying not to use them in the ear canal.
Without further ado, I bring to you some reasons to avoid Qtips in the ear.
Damage To The Hearing Bones
On the other side of the eardrum, we have 3 bones to help with our hearing. A dangerous ear Qtip that hits the eardrum may damage these bones, even if the eardrum is not perforated.
Hearing loss and dizziness are the most common complaints. This can be an extremely dangerous situation because one of the bones may be pushed into the inner ear which can cause permanent damage.
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We Can Help You With Earwax Hearing Problems And More
Q-tips arent always going to lead to problems a lot of people use them, and their ears are just fine. But when someone has a big wax impaction, its almost always because of Q-tips.
Give the methods above a try. And if they dont work to unplug your ears, make an appointment with your doctor.
Also, make sure to contact a doctor if you experience any of the following:
- trouble hearing
- blood on the Q-tip after cleaning your ears
- drainage from your ears
How To Care For An Ear Infection
In the early stages of an ear infection, you have some at-home options to reduce discomfort and prevent the infection from getting worse.
You want to keep your ear dry, which means using ear plugs when swimming and drying your ears with a towel after you shower. For pain management, taking over-the-counter pain killers can help reduce soreness.
It can also help to safely clean your ears if you do not have a hole in your eardrum, Lin says. To do so, she recommends the following:
- Mix a solution of one part rubbing alcohol and one part vinegar.
- Apply five to 10 drops in the affected ear using a clean dropper.
- Lean to your side and let the drops sit for two to five minutes.
- Tip your head and let the solution drain out.
Cleaning with this solution will help dry out your ears and prevent bacteria and fungus growth.
Most of these infections will get better without antibiotics, Lin says. We try to limit the use of antibiotics to prevent antibiotic resistance.”
In other words, many infections will go away on their own. However, in the case that your infection persists, you have a fever or severe pain, your doctor will prescribe antibiotic pills or antibiotic or antifungal drops to treat the infection.
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Why Do I Put Hair In My Ear
Terminal ear hair works together with your body’s natural ear wax to form a protective barrier. Just like nose hair, it helps to prevent germs, bacteria, and debris from getting inside your inner ear and causing potential damage. So having some ear hair isn’t just normal, it’s actually a good thing.
How To Remove Excess Earwax At Home
If your eardrum doesn’t contain a tube or have a hole in it, these home remedies are a much better option than cotton swabs:
You may need to repeat this wax-softening and irrigation procedure several times before the excess earwax falls out. However, the softening agents may only loosen the outer layer of the wax and cause it to lodge deeper in the ear canal or against the eardrum.
If your symptoms don’t improve after a few treatments, see your healthcare provider.
Earwax removal kits available in stores also can be effective at removing wax buildup. If you’re unsure which one is right for you, ask your audiologist or ear, nose, and throat specialist for advice on how to properly use other earwax-removal methods.
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What To Do If You Feel Pain
So, what can you do if youve already used a cotton swab in your ear and begin to feel pain?
In the short term, you can use over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to help relieve pain. If ear pain doesnt go away after 3 days of home care, make an appointment with your doctor.
If you use a cotton swab in your ear and feel a sudden, sharp pain thats accompanied by other symptoms like muffled hearing or ringing in your ears, see a healthcare provider right away. You may have an ear injury.
Can My Dizziness Be Caused By Q
I cant stop using q-tips in my ears. I have eargasms. Could damage from a q-tip cause side effects. Balance comes from partly in the inner ear.
Yes. One thing that can happen other than direct damage, is Q-tip use can interrupt the natural flow of ear wax, which can then fail to make its way out of the ear and build up and block the ear canal, as well as lead to ear infections.
I have what my doctor describes as really hairy ear canals. Nothing comes out as the hairs trap the wax and my hearing deteriorates. Q-Tips get nothing.
The doctor has to go in about once a year with a water cannon to get stuff out. It is a miserable experience. Then he breaks out the metal hook and it turns into a fucking nightmare. I get so high on pills in the parking lot to be able to handle the metal hook. It is like a jabbing into my brain and so amazingly painful and you have to stay still or the doctor will stab your eardrum while scooping out wax.
Tried the candles. Garbage hippie shit.
Use Debrox ear drops to keep wax loose. Tell the doctor to use warm water . Ask him to use a plastic loop if he has it.
And dont use candlesyoure right about that.
:: Shilolo suggested Debrox and I bought a bottle right away since it was 8 bucks and OTC. It unfortunately did nothing. I have been fighting this battle for 30 years.
: If you have wax, you could be pushing the wax farther into your ear, not helping.
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Use Ear Cleaning Drops
If a moist cotton ball doesnt loosen things up, another option is over-the-counter eardrops there are water-based drops and oil-based drops. Water-based drops usually include ingredients like hydrogen peroxide to break down the wax. Oil-based ear cleaning drops make the earwax slippery and soft. Both types of drops work well. So, choose the one that you prefer.
The process for using eardrops is very similar as using a moist cotton ball.
When To See A Doctor
Generally speaking, you shouldnt typically need to see a healthcare provider to have your ears cleaned. However, sometimes earwax can build up or become too hard to be naturally cleared, even if you dont use cotton swabs in your ear.
Make an appointment with your doctor to have them check your ears if you experience any of the following symptoms, whether or not youve used a cotton swab:
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