There’s an old expression that goes something like “put nothing into your ears smaller than your elbow.” That’s good advice and certainly includes cotton swabs. The package that cotton swabs come in is in agreement, stating not to use them inside your ears. They’re meant to be used around the outside folds of the ear. Below we discuss why.
Earwax and Your Ear Canals
Ear canals produce cerumen (wax) to protect the skin of the ear canal. Ears should but don’t always clean themselves. If there’s an accumulation of ear wax the ear feels full and your hearing may be muffled. Putting a swab into the ear canal is like putting an old time cannon plunger into the barrel of a cannon. Mostly the swab pushes any accumulated wax further down the ear canal. Some wax may come out on the end of the cotton swab, but most of the wax will become more impacted.
The Problem With Q-Tips
Not only do Q-tips fail to get most wax out of your ear, they may seriously injure the ear canal or even perforate the eardrum causing hearing loss. As ear doctors, we see many patients who have lacerated an ear canal causing bleeding, pain and possible infection. Patients who have punctured an eardrum may have permanent hearing loss and a perforation that needs surgical closure. Another problem that could occur is the cotton tip may dislodge from the swab and necessitate a visit to an ear doctor for its removal.
Ear canal with wax Ear canal clean
Use Q-tips freely for cleaning the outside of your ear but leave the inside to a professional if you develop a wax impaction. Q-tips are smaller by far than an elbow!
If you have a problem with earwax clogging your ear, our ENT specialists can treat ear wax impaction as well as a variety of other issues of the ear, head, neck, eyes, nose and throat, including ear infections, tonsil and adenoids, sleep disturbance, thyroid nodules, silent reflux, and palate surgery as well as nasal polyps, and deviated septum and sleep apnea. Our offices are located in Fairfield County, CT in the towns of Danbury, New Milford, Norwalk, Ridgefield and Southbury.
- Jeffrey Monroe, M.D.