Why You Should Stop Cleaning Your Ears With Cotton Swabs And What to Do Instead

2 years ago

Apart from cotton swabs, doctors have seen patients use hairpins, tweezers, pens, and even straws in order to clean their ears. None of these tools are effective, though, and cotton swabs, especially, can do more harm than good. They might give you a sense of satisfaction and cleanliness, but in reality, it is a false feeling. Stick around, and you will see all the damage they can cause to your ears.

Bright Side would like to inform you about the different ways cotton swabs can be harmful to your inner ear and how to replace them in your daily routine.

They can cause injury.

It may sound unbelievable, but cotton swabs can traumatize your middle ear and, more specifically, cause a ruptured eardrum. According to a study that looked into cotton swab-related ear injuries, about 73% of them were found to be linked to ear cleaning. This is a big percentage if you take into consideration that the study took place from 1990 until 2010 and studied more than 263,000 kids.

They can push the earwax deeper into the ear.

Many people get the urge to get the earwax out, especially whenever they have a buildup of it. However, they are only pushing it deeper in the ear canal and, as a result, the wax just sits there instead of moving around. In this case, the only solution is to visit a doctor who can remove the earwax using professional methods, which can sometimes be uncomfortable.

They can cause infections.

One of the most beneficial properties of earwax is to trap and contain the growth of bacteria that enter our ears. It acts like a safety net that keeps bacteria from causing serious damage. However, when we use cotton swabs and push both the earwax and the bacteria deeper inside, we encourage the latter to harm us. In this case, it is very possible for us to suffer from ear infections.

Why we need earwax

Apart from containing and getting rid of bacteria, as we mentioned above, earwax also prevents other things, like bugs and dirt, from getting into our ears. It is also the best natural lubricant that prevents our ear from getting dry and causing itchiness. And it is programmed to remove itself from the ear whenever we get into physical activities. It actually pushes itself into the outer ear canal, where a simple shower washes it away.

What to do if cotton swabs cause you pain

If the pain is nothing serious at first, and you feel that it is bearable, you can try to take over-the-counter painkillers and see how it goes. However, if the pain remains and is later accompanied by either muffled hearing or a ringing in the ears, you should call a doctor. It could be a more serious ear injury that needs professional attention and advice.

How to clean your ears safely

These 2 methods have been proven to be the most effective and safe to use at home:

  • Use ear drops: It could be baby oil, mineral oil, or glycerin that you drop carefully into your ear. They will all manage to soften the ear wax. 2 days later, you can use a syringe to drop some warm water into your ear and tip your head in order to let the water escape. Then, you will need to use a clean towel to clean the exterior part of your ear.
  • Use a clean tissue: Ear wax gets washed off every time you get in the shower, but you can help remove the last bits of it this way. You can take a dry tissue, dab it in some water, and then clean the exterior part of the ear.

However, there are some over-the-counter cleaning methods that you should avoid:

  • Ear candling: Also known as ear coning, this method is very popular online, but according to doctors it is not effective at all. On the other hand, it can prove to be dangerous and even cause your hair to get burned.
  • Various objects: as mentioned above, many people use pen caps, keys, and bobby pins to clean their ears. However, these items can all get stuck in your ears and cause serious damage, like puncturing your eardrums.

Have you ever suffered from anything related to using cotton swabs in your ears? If so, what was it, and how did you treat it?


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