Cedar Audiology Associates - Cleveland, OH

Woman holding a cotton swab up to her ear canal

You have more than likely never noticed, but on the backside of any package of cotton swabs there’s a written warning that is some variation of this:

“Caution: Do not enter the ear canal with this product. Penetrating the ear canal could cause injury.”

If you have a package of cotton swabs, go check it out for yourself.

The thing is, it’s not just physicians, audiologists, and hearing specialists who advise against the use of cotton swabs to clean the ears—even the makers of cotton swabs believe it’s a bad idea!

So why, if the use of cotton swabs is such a popular method of ear cleaning, should it be refrained from? Why are the producers so adamant that you don’t use their own product in this manner?

We’re excited you asked: here are four good reasons to never use cotton swabs to clean your ears again.

1. Earwax is beneficial

Earwax has quite a few beneficial functions aside from being gross. It has antibacterial attributes to prevent infections, it operates as an insect repellent to keep bugs out of your ears, and it helps to lubricate the ear canal, which helps prevent dry, itchy skin.

2. Cotton Swabs force earwax up against the eardrum

Using cotton swabs can actually be dangerous. When you force any foreign object into the ear canal, you’re forcing most of the earwax up against the eardrum. This can rupture the eardrum or can cause an impaction that will bring about hearing loss.

3. Earwax removes itself

The ear is fashioned to remove its own earwax. The normal movements of your jaw—from talking, eating, or yawning—will push the earwax to the external ear. All that’s called for from you is normal showering and cleaning the outer ear with a cloth.

4. Too much earwax removal causes dryness

Earwax has lubricating and antibacterial qualities, so if you remove too much, you’ll experience a dry, itchy feeling and will be more predisposed to infections.

What to do instead

There are a variety of commercial (and do-it-yourself) solutions you can use to flush out your ears, which is considerably less dangerous than inserting foreign objects into the ear canal. But bear in mind, if you’re having problems with surplus earwax or you’re having difficulties hearing, it’s always best to pay a visit to a hearing professional.

Hearing professionals are extensively educated in the anatomy and physiology of the ear, and can diagnose any ailments you may have with earwax buildup or hearing loss. It’s always a good idea to rule out more serious problems, and if cleaning is all that’s needed, you’ll get the assurance of knowing that it’s being done properly.

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