You must have used a cotton swab (also known as a Q-Tip) at some point or the other, sticking it into your ear and swirling it around for a good cleaning. You might think that this a good, healthy habit, but actually it’s just the opposite. Here’s why you should never use cotton swabs to clean your ears.
Your ears clean themselves
Unlike most of the other parts of your body, your ears don’t need to be cleaned. The ear is actually a self-cleaning organ, so it takes care of itself. There is an old saying, which says that nothing smaller than your elbow should ever enter your ear, and doctors have confirmed that this is true. Apart from cotton swabs, people put all kinds of things in their ears to clean them, like hair pins, keys, paper clips, pens and pencils. All of these can do severe damage to your ears.
Ear wax is healthy
People feel justified in using cotton swabs when they put them in their ears and the swabs come out with ear wax on them, because they think that they are getting rid of the dirt in their ears. This wax is actually healthy, because it coats the inner part of your ear and protects it. It has anti-bacterial properties that prevent your inner ears from getting infected and it helps water to slip out of your ears easily. A good metaphor for ear wax is furniture polish – removing your ear wax is like scraping the polish off of your furniture, leaving it rough, raw and exposed.
Ear wax is produced by the inner part of your ear, and it slowly makes its way outward, taking germs and dead skin cells along with it. Every time you have a bath, the water loosens the wax a little bit, helping it come out on its own. In fact, even talking and chewing move your jaw in a way that loosens the wax in your ears. In some cases, people may have too much wax in their ears, which can affect their hearing and cause them pain. This can be easily solved by a visit to an ENT specialist, who can flush out the wax in a quick and painless procedure.
Cotton swabs damage your ears
Every time you push a cotton swab into your ear, you not only introduce new germs into your ear, you also push some of the wax back into your ear. This is the old wax that is on its way out, but by pushing it back in you send all the dirt and germs trapped in that wax back into your ear.
While this is bad enough, it gets much worse. Your eardrum is a thin membrane at the end of your ear canal that is extremely delicate. When you are enthusiastically digging for dirt in your ear you could accidently pierce your eardrum and rupture it. The eardrum can rupture with even the slightest pressure of a cotton swab, causing you a lot of pain and possibly even loss of hearing. While ruptured eardrums do eventually heal, they take a while and are extremely painful.