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Why You Need to Stop Using Q-Tips to Clean Your Ears

If there is one personal hygiene task you need to take off your to-do list, it’s this: stop cleaning your ears with cotton swabs. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, experts strongly discourage twirling cotton-tipped swabs in the ears. Here’s why.

What is Earwax?

When people see earwax, also known as cerumen, inside their ears, they automatically assume it is a sign of being dirty. However, it’s the complete opposite. Earwax, similar to everything in our body, has a purpose. While earwax may seem gross, its function is important, and that is to keep dust and dirt away from the eardrum.

Here are four reasons why you should stop cleaning your ears with Q-tips for good:

Earwax is Not a Sign of Poor Hygiene

This is where there seems to be a misunderstanding when it comes to talking about earwax. Many people believe that earwax is a sign of poor hygiene, but it’s not. Earwax is there for many good reasons. Among other things, earwax:

  • Acts as a moisturizer and protective coating for the ear canal.
  • Is a natural barrier that prevents dirt and bacteria from entering the innermost parts of the ear.
  • Absorbs dead skin cells and debris.

Ears Clean Themselves

Earwax grabs stray dirt, dust, and debris, trapping it before it can make its way into your ear canal. Old earwax naturally moves down the ear canal once new earwax is produced. When we chew, talk, or yawn, it causes enough vibrations to help usher the soiled ear wax to the outside of the ear canal where you can wipe it away with a damp cloth. 

Earwax Protects the Ears

Earwax has many health properties that clean, protect, and condition the ears. Earwax is secreted by glands in the skin that line the outer half of the ear canal. The wax and tiny hairs in these passages trap dust and other foreign particles that could damage your eardrum. Aside from its dirt-trapping properties, ear wax also protects your ears against viruses, fungal infections, bacteria, and even insects. 

Earwax Removal Could Cause Damage

Inserting a cotton-tipped swab, or anything else, into the ear can damage your ear canal or eardrum, or push earwax farther into the canal, which can make it harder to remove. If you have jammed ear wax further into the canal, it may cause a feeling of pressure in the ear and diminish hearing. 

While earwax has many benefits, some individuals produce more earwax than necessary, which can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as decreased hearing, dizziness, itchiness, and ringing in the ear. If you suffer from symptoms caused by earwax, consult Dr. Marc Dean at the Ear and Sinus Institute for information on earwax buildup treatment options.


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