Why cleaning your ears out with cotton buds could damage your hearing

Getting rid of earwax with a cotton bud could damage your hearing, according to a new study.

Wednesday, 4th January 2017, 1:58 pm
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 11:41 am
Sticking a cotton bud in your ears is not recommended.

Many people think earwax is a sign of uncleanliness, but using buds, hairpins, car keys, toothpick and other implements to have a rummage could make the problem worse.

Now researchers say the old wives' tale that the smallest thing you should stick in your ear is your elbow is correct.

Otherwise there is a risk you may cut the ear canal, make a hole in the eardrum, or dislocate delicate hearing bones, leading to hearing loss, dizziness, and ringing.

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Excessive cleaning may also irritate the ear canal, cause infection and can cause even more wax - or cerumen, as it's properly known - to be produced.

It even increase the chances of earwax impaction, which blocks the ear canal, and can lead to pain, itching, feeling of fullness, ringing or tinnitus, hearing loss or a discharge or an unpleasant odour from the ear.

Medical experts said the ear cleanses itself naturally and people should refrain from trying to tackle a perceived build-up in wax.

Dr Seth Schwartz said "Patients often think they are preventing earwax from building up by cleaning out their ears with cotton swabs, paper clips, ear candles, or any number of unimaginable things that people put in their ears.

"The problem is that this effort to eliminate earwax is only creating further issues, because the earwax is just getting pushed down and impacted further into the ear canal.

"Anything that fits in the ear could cause serious harm to the ear drum and canal with the potential for temporary or even permanent damage."

Dr Schwartz was chair of the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery Foundation which updated guidelines on the dos and don'ts of ear health.

He said: "This update is significant because it not only provides best practices for clinicians in managing cerumen impaction, it is a strong reminder to patients that ear health starts with them, and there are many things they should do as well as many things that they should stop doing immediately to prevent damage to their ears.

"There is an inclination for people to want to clean their ears because they believe earwax is an indication of uncleanliness.

"This misinformation leads to unsafe ear health habits."

Earwax is a normal substance produced by the body to clean, protect, and 'oil' ears.

It acts as a self-cleaning agent to keep ears healthy by trapping dirt, dust, and other small matter, which keeps them from getting farther into the ear.

Chewing, jaw motion, and growing skin in the ear canal help to move old earwax from inside the ears to the ear opening, where it then flakes off or is washed off during bathing.

This process of making wax and pushing the old wax out is continual. Anyone who has problems is urged to see their GP, who may carry out irrigation or ear syringing.