Earwax’s purpose is to keep your ear canal clean. Most earwax (cerumen) is beneficial, though excessive, hard, or obstructive earwax can prove to be problematic. For the sensitive skin of the ear canal, the ear was is a normal protective coating. Water is repelled from the ear wax coating and it helps deter ear infections. Earwax provides some antibacterial and lubricating advantages in addition to keeping dust, dirt, and debris away from the eardrum. Generally, the ears are self-cleaning. Motions with the jaw, such as chewing, talking, and so on, helps cycle out the old ear wax. Digging in your ear with a Q-tip actually leaves you vulnerable and we at ENT Specialists would like to continue to elaborate on using cotton swabs in your ears.
Excessive Use of Q-Tips
The more frequently the ears are rubbed, the more histamine you release, making the skin irritated and inflamed. The ear also becomes drier since the earwax acts a natural lubricant, promoting the use of further swabbing to find relief.
Dangers of Cotton Swabs in Ears
Though it initially seems like a good idea, people commonly reach for the Q-tips to clean the wax out their ears. Functioning to moisturize the skin and help prevent foreign bodies from entering deeper into the ear canal, the outer one-third to one-half of the ear canal produces cerumen, or earwax. It’s normal for cerumen to drain very slowly out of the ear due to the hairs and the natural growth of canal skin. During the activity of cotton swabbing the ears, people may get a portion of wax out, but often push some back deeper into the medial canal, which is not well-equipped to remove it. The impaction from pushing the wax against the tympanic membrane, or eardrum, can impair hearing, lead to painful and challenging to eliminate ear infections. Also, water can get trapped in the self-created wax dams, making your ears feel uncomfortable. Eardrums are very delicate and using a Q-tip can easily puncture it. If the puncture is deep enough, you can potentially press on the little bones of hearing underneath. As the tiniest bones in the body, these bones attached to the ear drum can cause hearing and balance problems.
What to Use to Clean Ears Instead of Q Tips
Where some people build up excessive earwax, or you feel they need to be cleaned, apply the following steps to carefully clean your ear canal. Keep in mind, these steps should only be used as long as you do not have any tubes or holes in the eardrum.
1) Ear wax softening. Twice a day for no more than four to five day, use an eyedropper to apply a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin or hydrogen peroxide in the year.
2) Warm water in ears. When the wax is softened, after a day or two, gently squirt warm (body temperature) water into your ear canal with a rubber-bulb syringe. To straighten your ear canal, tilt your head and pull your outer ear up and back. Tip your head to the side to let the water drain out after you finished irrigating.
3) Dry the ear canal. Using a towel, gently dab your outer ear to dry it off.
Ear, Hearing & Balance Audiology Services
Keep in mind that you may need to repeat this wax softening and irrigation procedure several times before the excess earwax is cleared out. The softening can also cause wax to fall and become lodged deeper into the ear canal or against the ear drum. If symptoms do not improve, see a doctor. Other methods include earwax removal kits available in stores. If you believe you have a compaction of earwax or fear there has been potential damage, call ENT Specialists and our medical staff will assist you.