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Are Q-Tips Bad For Your Ears?

Doctors hear this question all of the time. The short answer is yes, Q-tips are bad for your ears. Ear wax buildup can be bothersome, but cotton swabs may be making your problems worse. While most people do not need to have their earwax professionally removed, those with excess earwax should consult with a doctor about their problem. Excess ear wax can lead to earaches, coughing, and hearing loss. If your earwax is especially bothersome, speak with your doctor instead of trying to remove ear wax yourself. Here’s why:

A little wax never hurt anybody:

Your earwax serves a biological purpose and should not be removed entirely. Wax protects the ear canal from foreign substances like dirt, dust, and even bugs. It also repels water and prevents it from getting trapped inside your ears every time you shower or swim. Ear wax also has antibacterial properties. All of these factors help earwax prevent ear infections.

Wax serves as lubricant to the ear:

Removing all the wax from the ear can make the skin dry and itchy. The more you rub on the inside of your ear, the more histamine you will produce in that area. Histamine is the same compound that causes hives in allergic reactions. High levels of histamine can lead to itching and irritation inside the ear. This will make your ear situation even more uncomfortable. It will probably make you want to use the cotton swab to soothe the itch, but it is important not to do that. This will dry out the ear canal even further, making it even more dry and itchy. 

Cotton swabs relocate the wax more than they remove it:

More often than not, using a Q-tip pushes a majority of the wax further into the ear canal. At most, only the outer half of the ear canal produces wax. When you clean your ear with a Q-tip, you are pushing the ear wax deeper into the ear canal. If the wax is pushed too far, it could impair hearing or even cause an ear infection.

Your eardrum is more fragile than you think:

When you use a cotton swab to clean out the wax, you can irritate the skin inside your ear or even rupture your eardrum. The eardrum is so fragile that even a cotton swab can puncture it. This tear can create severe ear pain and may require a procedure to repair the damage. Just because you are careful cleaning your ears does not mean you are immune to rupturing your eardrum. Many accidents occur where someone is cleaning their ear, and another person accidentally bumps their arm. At this point, the Q-tip has been pushed too far inside of the ear, and severe damage can be caused.

If you are experiencing ear pain or hearing loss, the experts at the Ear & Sinus Institute can help. Whether it is removing impacted earwax to alleviate hearing loss or performing a myringoplasty to heal a ruptured eardrum, Ear & Sinus Institute is dedicated to reversing the damage caused by Q-tips. If your earwax is bothering you, call 817-406-1349 to schedule an appointment today.

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