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How To Use Cotton Swabs To Clean Ears

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Dangers Of Using Cotton Swabs To Clean Ear Wax

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Ear wax is a natural way of protecting the ear from dryness, dirt and also bacteria. It prevents the bacteria from getting deep inside the ear.

Over time the ear wax migrates to the outside of the ear from where it can be removed easily.

Using cotton swabs in the ear can lead to a variety of problem including:

Dangers Of Using Cotton Swabs

Cotton swabs are frequently the go-to choice used to clean the wax out of the ear canals of people, which initially seems like a good idea unless you understand the anatomy and physiology well.

Only the outer one-third to one-half of the ear canal makes cerumen which functions to moisturize the skin and help prevent foreign bodies from entering deeper into the ear canal. The body also has hairs and the natural growth of canal skin is from the inside out, so it is normal for cerumen to “flow” out of the ear.

When people use cotton swabs they frequently clean out some of the wax, but also push some of it back deeper into the medial canal which cannot remove it well. It can get pushed up against the tympanic membrane and cause impactions that can impair hearing, can lead to infection and can be painful/difficult to remove.

Think of a cotton swab like the plungers used to load cannons. They can pack softer wax deeply in the ear canal against the eardrum.

If you use a cotton swab and create a formidable plug, preventing the eardrum from moving normally, it is quite easy to cause some significant hearing loss. Water can also be trapped behind these self-created wax dams and you may hear the water moving around in the ear.

When this happens, the ear will need to be lavagedwashed out by a gentle stream of warm water. Or, you will need to see your audiologist or physician, someone who can look inside your ear and remove the impaction professionally.

Dont: Use Cotton Swabs

A common mistake many make when it comes to cleaning out their ears is using cotton swabs. While its okay to use cotton swabs on the outside of your ear, you should never stick them deep inside your ear canal. A cotton swab can cause serious damage to your ear because it can just push earwax further down the ear, slow down the natural process of earwax removal, and result in an eardrum injury.

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When Should You See A Doctor About Earwax

For those who have heavy wax build-up, a trip to the doctor may be needed. Doctors can easily remove ear wax with a little peroxide mixed with water and injected into the ear. The process is virtually painless and is effective at removing impacted wax. If excess wax become a frequent problem, ask your physician how you can do the procedure yourself at home.

If you are experiencing significant wax build up in your ear canals, or if you think wax could be affecting your hearing, our directory can help you find a hearing clinic near you. A hearing care provider can look inside your ear using an otoscope, assess the situation and determine the best course of action.

Why Does Earwax Form

Why Cotton Ear Swabs Are Not Safe To Clean Our Ears

The root cause of the problem is earwax or cerumen. This is a waxy oil produced by the cells of your ear in order to protect it against dust, foreign particles and microorganisms. Many studies indicate that earwax also helps keep nasty insects out of our ears when we are sleeping. So, all in all, earwax does more good than harm. But lets be honest, it is disgusting to look at and pretty irritating.

Many people have a heavy buildup of earwax that can lead to some symptoms, such as pain, dizziness, coughing or drainage from the ear. The biggest mistake people make is to try and clean the buildup at home using sub-par methods, such as cotton swabs, bobby pins, pens or pencils and keys.

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The Wax Could Get Impacted

“Cleaning devices just shove the wax in further,” Dr. Kari says, pointing out that we only produce wax on the outer third of our ear canal, not on the inner part next to our eardrum.

The canal is made to push wax out naturally, and if you thrust it in too deep using a cleaning device, it will become impacted. As a result, it will take longer to come out on its own and you may even need to have a doctor help you get it out.

In the meantime, you will experience intermittent or constant hearing loss in one or both ears it’ll feel like you’re wearing an earplug.

“In some cases, you can get an ear infection from having impacted wax sit there for too long,” Dr. Kari says.

Joy Victory Managing Editor Healthy Hearing

Joy Victory has extensive experience editing consumer health information. Her training in particular has focused on how to best communicate evidence-based medical guidelines and clinical trial results to the public. She strives to make health content accurate, accessible and engaging to the public.Read more about Joy.

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How To Protect Your Ears

Beyond keeping your ears clean, follow these tips to protect them and ensure good hearing for years to come:

  • Dont insert small objects into your ears. You shouldnt put anything smaller than your elbow inside of your ear canal because it can cause injury to your eardrum or wax impaction.
  • Limit your exposure to loud noises. Wear protective headgear or earplugs when the noise gets too loud.
  • Take periodic breaks from using your headphones, and keep the volume low enough that no one else can hear your music. Dont raise the volume in your cars sound system up too high either.
  • Dry out your ears after swimming to prevent swimmers ear. Use a cloth to wipe the outside of the ear, and tilt your head to help remove any additional water.
  • Pay attention to any hearing changes that occur with the use of certain medications. If you notice changes, balance issues, or ringing in your ears, contact your doctor.
  • See your doctor as soon as possible if you notice sudden pain, a loss of hearing, or if you have an ear injury.

So How Bad Is It Really To Use A Cotton Swab In Your Ears

The Dangers of Using Cotton Swabs to Remove Ear Wax

As long as you don’t insert it inside your ear canal, it’s fine. But if you dig any deeper than the outer rim, you run the risk of doing way more harm than good.

“I have friends who tell me they use a cotton swab all the time,” Dr. Kari says. “I just shake my head and tell them it’s not a great idea.”

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The Best Way To Clean Your Ears At Home

Even though scrubbing the insides of your ears clean isn’t necessary, having a hunk of brownish-yellow goo sitting right there is pretty gross.

“To get rid of it safely, wrap a towel around your finger and wipe off your ear opening,” Dr. Kari says. It might help to tilt your head to one side during your shower and let the warm water run over your ears to soften up the wax before wiping.

She concedes that you can use a cotton swab just make sure the applicator never, ever enters the ear canal itself.

Donts For Cleaning Ear

Ignoring symptoms and trying home remedies for earwax will ultimately lead you to severe infections or ear pain. Sometimes overcleaning can also cause irritation to the ear canal.

Water Irrigation or ear syringing method is also not advisable as it causes a sudden change in pressure inside the ear canal. If not performed properly can cause more harm.

Some other home remedies such as ear vacuum are advised against as well. Any other cleaning kit or device which is not certified medically can add on to your problems.

Though cotton swabs or earbuds are fine for outer ear maintenance, Consulting a hearing professional will be a safer choice.

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Learn More About Using An Otoscope To Clean Your Ears

If you are searching the internet for how to use ear cleaning tools on yourself then you probably are suffering from some form of ear irritation – usually an itch, ache, ringing or a clog. There are a variety of ear tools on the market that can help alleviate some of these symptoms. Here, we will discuss some of the most popular methods and what they are effective for.

Why Cotton Swabs/earbuds Should Be Avoided

After Reading This Youll Never Use Cotton Swabs For ...

It is important to keep in mind that nothing should be placed in the ear nearby ear canal to clean dirt and debris, as gentlest of the pressure can rupture eardrum because of its delicacy.

As eardrums are much closer than we have thought. Cotton earbuds seem to be of perfect shape and size to fit in the ear canal to clear the wax build-up.

This can be your biggest mistake because even the slightest slip can damage your eardrums. Further, it can even push the earwax deeper into the middle ear which will add on to your problem.

Some common symptoms of heavy earwax build-up are tinnitus, pain, dizziness, coughing, or drainage from the ear.

People use several items to clean their ear. The most interesting ones are listed below:

  • Cotton Swabs
  • Paper Clips
  • Toys

Earwax build-up is truly frustrating but using these above items will not resolve your problem instead it can generate some severe ear problems which none of you want to have so, cotton swabs or other above-given items should not get into our ears for any purpose.

Cleaning ear with q-tip actually touches your eardrums. You know that your eardrums are very sensitive, thus q-tip damage ear. Earbuds also strangle the small hairs present inside our ear and hence improves hearing.

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Never Use Cotton Swabs In Your Ears

Many people use ear swabs to maintain the hygiene of the ears and to keep it clean. The swabs are utilised to get rid of the wax that builds up in the ears, but it surely needs some caution while using the swab, so that you do not get hurt.

According to the latest researches, there are adverse impacts of using ear swabs to clean the ears. A high percentage of the people who use cotton swabs suffer from tympanic membrane breakdown. If you insert the swab too deep in the ear, it can also cause damage to your ear.

It can start from a minor injury and ultimately result into the perforation of the tympanic membrane.

This drilling of ear using the swabs can even result into vertigo or facial paralysis.

It is better to refrain from using the ear swabs as you might need surgical intervention in extreme cases. The ear swabs can be extremely dangerous if it is not used properly.

As we have already listed the negative impacts of using the ear swabs to clean the ears, it is necessary to keep some precautions in mind before using the swabs.

So, in order to preserve your eardrum it is important to follow the given tips:

People think that the ear wax is something not beneficial and needs to be cleaned. But, the ear wax that is produced inside the ear canal protects the ear from bacteria, dust and pollution.

Dangers Of Cotton Swabs In Ears

Though it initially seems like a good idea, people commonly reach for the Q-tips to clean the wax out their ears. Functioning to moisturize the skin and help prevent foreign bodies from entering deeper into the ear canal, the outer one-third to one-half of the ear canal produces cerumen, or earwax. Its normal for cerumen to drain very slowly out of the ear due to the hairs and the natural growth of canal skin. During the activity of cotton swabbing the ears, people may get a portion of wax out, but often push some back deeper into the medial canal, which is not well-equipped to remove it. The impaction from pushing the wax against the tympanic membrane, or eardrum, can impair hearing, lead to painful and challenging to eliminate ear infections. Also, water can get trapped in the self-created wax dams, making your ears feel uncomfortable. Eardrums are very delicate and using a Q-tip can easily puncture it. If the puncture is deep enough, you can potentially press on the little bones of hearing underneath. As the tiniest bones in the body, these bones attached to the ear drum can cause hearing and balance problems.

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Do You Even Need To Clean Your Ears

Probably not. Per the AAO-HNS, excess wax passes out of the ear canal automatically, carrying dirt, dust and other particles of debris along with it. The movement of your jaw when you chew or talk facilitates the migration of cerumen. Once it reaches the ear opening, it dries up and flakes off.

“You should not be cleaning your own ears unless you’ve been directed to do so by a doctor,” Dr. Kari says.

That said, some folks churn out a slew of sludge that does need to be professionally removed.

“These people might have chronic inflammation of the ear, causing a lot of skin to build up over time and mix with the wax,” Dr. Kari says. “This leads to repeated impaction, where their ears are clogged with wax.”

In addition, dermatologic issues that lead to dry, scaly skin like eczema or psoriasis can create clumpy wax that’s more likely to get stuck in your ear canal, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

Genetics also play a role. For example, you might have been born with particularly narrow ear canals that get blocked up more easily. And people of East Asian descent tend to have drier earwax, making it difficult for the crud to slide out.

Plus, because cerumen secretions become flakier as you age, older adults are prone to impacted wax. Hearing aids worsen the problem by pushing the wax deeper in.

“If you’re naturally a heavy wax producer, your ears need to be cleaned by a doctor on a regular basis typically every three to 12 months,” Dr. Kari says.

What You Should Avoid

Why You Shouldn’t Use Cotton Swabs to Clean Your Ears ?

Its unnecessary to clean the ears all the time. As stated, our ears can take care of themselves. The use of different items such as cotton swabs and bobby pins will only push the wax to the inner parts of the ear canal, making it particularly difficult to reach. When the earwax buildup occurs in the deeper ear canal, cerumen impaction might take place.

Doctors are firm in prohibiting tiny objects inside the ears. This means that putting a sharp object, cotton swab, or things that might damage the eardrum is a big no-no. Doing so can affect your hearing, or worse, lead to total loss of hearing.

Ear irrigation should not be performed if you have:

  • a hole in your eardrum
  • diabetes
  • tubes in the ear
  • weak immune system

On the other note, ear candles are also not recommended. Apart from the fact that it is a very unsafe method, you might end up having more wax inside your ear from the candle. Plus, ear candles use fire to suck the wax, and if not handled properly, the fire can cause injury.

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How To Clean Your Ears

The outer ear, also known as the pinna, benefits from a good cleaning every now and then. This can be accomplished with a little soap, water and a washcloth while you shower. Be gentle.

In most cases, the ear canal does not need to be cleaned. During hair washing or showers, enough water enters the ear canal to loosen the wax that has accumulated. Additionally, the skin in your ear canal naturally grows in an outward, spiral pattern. As it sloughs off, ear wax goes with it. Most of the time the wax will loosen and fall out on its own while you are asleep. The need for a cotton swab isnt necessary.

Q: What About The Earwax Removal Products I See At The Pharmacy

Dr. Wong: Several home-care earwax systems use a gentle liquid in a syringe to flush out the ear canal. While generally safe to use, these home-care systems sometimes cause earwax to melt, and then residual earwax can re-solidify inside the ear canal like cement against the ear drum.

Such cases require careful removal by an ear, nose, and throat provider. In our ENT office, we use a magnifying scope and tiny micro-instruments to gently peel the earwax away from the ear drum without damaging the underlying structures. Our ENT physicians and physician assistants are trained to locate and remove earwax safely.

From the above questions and answers section between Dr. Yu-Tung Wong and Cedars-sinai, you will notice that it highly unadvisable to use the cotton swab.

Hope this content was helpful? Feel free to leave us your feedback via the comments section below.


Please note that I am not a medical professional. I only shared this content cause I know it will be helpful to you. Kindly see your doctor for more professional medical advice.

Kind regards

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Dont Use Cotton Swabs

Cotton swabs are not made to go into the ear canal . Its OK to clean your outer ear with a cotton swab as long as you can resist the temptation to use the swab in your ear canal. First and foremost, a cotton swab can push earwax back toward the eardrum, leading to a possible wax blockage. Secondly, the cotton may come off and could cause an infection. Lastly, the cotton may irritate the sensitive skin in the ear canal, leading to infection.

And its not just cotton swabs, dont use keys, pen caps, bobby pins, fingernails or anything else thats long and pointy to clear your ears of wax.

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