Ears. We all have them. They’re great for listening out for danger and for listening in to conversations. But it turns out that by doing something that you might’ve thought was good for your ears, you’re actually doing them harm.
According to the Telegraph, every year around 7,000 people in England alone go to hospital with an injury from a cotton swab. That’s more people than are injured by razor blades. Healthcare professionals have been trying to discourage people from cleaning their ears with cotton swabs for years as it can damage the ear drum and push wax deeper into the ear. But fittingly, nobody’s listening.
Using cotton swabs to clean your ears can cause ear infections as well as long term hearing damage. Simply put, you should never insert anything into your ear. Furthermore, earwax (aka cerumen) isn’t necessarily dirty.
Produced by glands in your ear, cerumen has antibacterials proprietress and acts as part of your body’s defence system, lubricating and cleaning the ear canal. There are a number of ways to clean your ears without depleting said cerumen (or damaging your ears) and you’re far better off using one of these.
These differ from cotton swabs in that rather than “pushing” wax further into your ear, it scoops it out. Note that you should not go too deep inside the ear, otherwise you’ll damage the inner ear just as with Q-tips. This type even comes with fins to clean the outer ear as well and is designed for multiple uses.
While most people conceive of getting salt water in your ear as fairly horrible, this is not at all unpleasant. By gently dapping in a few drops of salt water, you can effectively clean the recesses of your ear. Use water that’s warmed to 100 °F (37.5 °C).
Baby oil, mineral oil and ear-cleansing oil are all safe to use on your ear passages. Ensure you check to see if you are allergic to any of the ingredients. If you’re not sure, dab some on your wrist and wait an hour to see if it flares up.
Using a detergent ear-cleaning product can also be highly effective. Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are both good at cleaning out the ear canals and if that still doesn’t work there are further things you can do.
Irrigation or syringing
You can either have a doctor perform an irrigation or you could buy a home irrigation kit. The most popular way of doing this is to use a saline solution.
See a doctor
Of course, if all else fails you could always go and see doctor. Even if he or she is not a otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) they will still be able to point you in the right direction by prescribing drops or performing an wax extraction using the proper tools.
Absolutely not. This method has no proven benefit but is dangerous in far more ways than one. Not only can you be burnt, but you could also suffer from an ear obstruction – from candle wax entering the ear – or an ear perforation. Furthermore, that ‘ear wax’ the ear candling supposedly removes is actually just wax from the candle. Funny that, seeing as they both have the same name.
So there you have it. Whether you call them cotton buds, Q-tips or cotton swabs, don’t go shoving them in your ears again. And hopefully, if you all follow this advice, we won’t be subjected to quite as many of those disgusting ear wax removal videos.