If you have been using cotton buds to clean your ears, it is time to stop. Experts now say that the best way to deal with excess earwax is to leave it alone.
Trying to remove earwax can cause problems, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology.
The person who invented cotton buds was inspired after watching his wife try to clean the wax out of a baby’s ear with a piece of cotton on the end of a toothpick in the 1920s.
Doctors have recently found that using cotton buds in this manner could cause more harm than good.
Putting cotton-tipped buds into the ear canal pushes wax further into the ear. That can cause damage, dizziness and balance problems.
Cotton buds may also tear or rupture the eardrum causing pain, bleeding and permanent hearing loss if used inappropriately
Over-the-counter products can help treat earwax buildup, but some products can lead to more problems. For example, ear candles (also called ear cones) can cause burns, bleeding or can hurt the ear drum.
Doctors recommend that if the earwax is not causing symptoms or blocking the ear canal, it should be left alone. They also recommend that nothing smaller than the point of your elbow should ever be placed in your ear.
The ear has its own self-cleaning system. Earwax and other secretions work together to keep dirt away from the eardrum, while the movement of the jaw pushes that wax out of the ear canal to prevent blockages.
Ear and hearing specialist Brande Plotnick told healthyhearing.com that the ear canal doesn’t need to be cleaned but that the outer ear benefits from a gentle wash.
“In most cases, the ear canal does not need to be cleaned,” she said.
“During hair washing or showers, enough water enters the ear canal to loosen the wax that has accumulated… the skin in your ear canal naturally grows in an outward, spiral pattern.
“Most of the time the wax will loosen and fall out on its own while you are asleep. The need for a cotton bud isn’t necessary.”