Health

Doctors Would Really Appreciate It If You Stopped Putting Q-Tips In Your Ears

by Penn Collins

January 4, 2017

In the event you’re still in the market for a New Year’s resolution, the American Academy of Otolarynology (We’ll just call them the AAO) has one for you…

Stop cleaning your ears. Altogether. Stop. 

We’ve been taught that using cotton swabs to clean out our ears is just part of basic hygiene, but the truth is that it does virtually no good and a lot of damage. Let’s start with earwax. Sure, it’s gross, but it serves an important purpose. It traps dust and foreign objects, preventing them from going further into your ear where they can do some serious damage. 

The AAO makes it clear where they stand on this: 

“Patients often think that 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,” Dr. Schwartz said. “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.

Impacted earwax can cause symptoms like ear pain, itching, feeling of fullness in the ear, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), hearing loss, discharge coming from the ear, odor coming from the ear, cough, and/or change in hearing aid function.”

In case you glossed over that block quote, the first sentence suggests that enough people are cleaning their ears out with paper clips that a group of doctors has to call the practice out specifically to get the offenders to knock it off. 

If you’re a lifelong ear cleaner, you might be wondering what will become of the old earwax if you’re not manually removing it. The body’s a wonderful thing, and the doctors say that it’s got you covered: 

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 normal process of making wax and pushing the old wax out is continual.

You’ve likely heard all this advice before from friends, coworkers (eww), or parents. This time, it’s coming from ear doctors. If you were continuing the practice until an authority weighed in, you can stop now. The authorities have weighed in. They want you to stop jamming earwax further into your ear, regardless of how good your intentions are. 

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