There are a lot of people who are in the habit of cleaning their ears with cotton swabs or Q-tips. After all, it's perfectly harmless, right? And all of that excess earwax and dirt are pretty icky anyway.
However, according to medical experts, this habit does more harm than good. Not only do you run the risk of puncturing an eardrum with a swab, you are also pushing most of the wax further into your ear, thereby compounding the problem. Not good.
Aside from your usual Q-tips, some of the most interesting (and horrifying) things that people have been using to clean their ears according to doctors include:
- Pen caps
- Car keys
- Hair pins
- Paper clips
And the list goes on. It's important to note that no pointy foreign object should come near your ears without a doctor's supervision. You don't need to go DIY on your ear cleaning. Not only is it highly dangerous for your ears, it can also lead to hearing loss.
Inside the ear canal, there are these specialized cells that produce ear wax (the medical term for it is cerumen). For some people, these cells produce cerumen faster than usual, therefore the ear wax build up. Too much build-up can cause decreased hearing, and even ear pain.
But instead of going to the doctor to have their ears cleaned, a lot of people use cotton swabs. It's understandable since you can easily reach into the ear canal using a simple cotton swab. But the eardrum is too delicate an organ -- even the slightest pressure can rupture it. And a punctured eardrum can be a very uncomfortable experience; fluid will leak out of your ear and you might experience severe pain. Yes, your eardrum will heal over time, but it might take weeks and can lead to hearing loss if not taken care off correctly.
So, is ear cleaning really necessary then?
The answer is both yes and no. To be more exact, it depends on what part of the ear we're talking about. The outer ear, called the pinna, can be cleaned every now and then. It's good hygiene. You can do this just by using a bit of soapy water and washcloth whenever you shower or take a bath.
Believe it or not, your ear canal doesn't need to be cleaned. It almost always gets cleaned whenever you shower or wash your hair since water will enter the canal and loosen the wax. Also, the skin in your ear canal grows in a spiral, outward-facing pattern. As the old skin cells slough off, most of the ear wax goes along with them too.
But what if you really do have heavy ear wax build up?
The next best thing to do if you suffer from heavy ear wax build up is to go to a doctor or a hearing healthcare professional. Ear cleaning is easy and virtually painless. Doctors usually remove the excess wax using a water-peroxide wash. Some doctors can even teach you how to do the correct ear cleaning procedure by yourself.