5 Reasons Never to Clean Ears with Cotton Swabs, According to Experts

As humans, we’re creatures of habit, which means most of us already have a daily morning routine we probably don’t plan on changing any time soon. Brush teeth? Check. Shower? Check. Clean ears with a cotton swab? Uncheck.

I know it’s hard, but this is one part of your routine that you should definitely consider ditching. After all, even the warning label on the box advises against inserting cotton swabs into your ear. Wondering just how dangerous this habit is? Here are five reasons you should stop cleaning your ears with cotton swabs.

Your ears are self-cleaning
It may be hard to believe that your wax-lined ears are already clean, but it’s true. Unless your glands are producing excessive amounts of wax, it’s likely that you don’t need to do much in regards to cleaning. Ear wax is actually called cerumen. This ear-cleaning solution made by your ears keeps them clean by trapping stray dust and dirt particles, preventing them from getting deeper into your ear canal. As you talk, chew, and yawn throughout the day, soiled ear wax moves down and out of the ear canal, where it can be easily wiped away with a washcloth.

Wax keeps your ears healthy
Cerumen isn’t just good for keeping dust and dirt out of your ears. The substance contains a mixture of long-chain fatty acids, enzymes, cholesterol, sebum, sloughed-off skin cells, and other chemicals that help protect the ear from a variety of factors. Cerumen is antimicrobial, meaning it protects your ears against viral, fungal, and bacterial infections. In addition, its acidity hinders fungal and bacterial growth, its smell repels insects, and it keeps your ear canal lubricated and moisturized.

Using cotton swabs can cause hearing loss
This habit could result in partial or total hearing loss. When you insert a cotton swab into the ear canal, soiled, old wax is pushed further into the canal, where it is impacted and causes hearing loss. If you do this every day, it’s possible that the wax has been pushed so deep into your ear that it’s touching your eardrum, causing severe blockage, pain, or a rupture.

You can injure yourself
Between 1990 and 2010, more than 263,000 children were treated in emergency rooms with injuries related to cotton tip applicators, according to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. That amounts to around 34 injuries per day. Despite the study being done on children, the authors noted that it’s risky to use cotton swabs across all age groups. The most common injuries were getting part of the cotton swab stuck in the ear canal and a perforated eardrum.

You can dry your ears out
As previously mentioned, ear wax keeps your ears healthy and lubricated. Removing too much of your ear wax can leave your ears feeling dry, itchy, and irritated. You’ll also be more susceptible to infections, and anyone who’s experienced an ear infection can tell you why you don’t want that.

Hopefully these reasons have caused you to rethink your ear cleaning habits. If you’re still bent on getting rid of your ear wax, try removal methods like using a washcloth or a few drops of hydrogen peroxide to soften the wax. And make sure you’re only removing wax that is visible and doesn’t require any digging!


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