“Q-tips are bad for your ears,” is what I told a patient.
“But how do I keep my ears clean?” the patient asked.
This particular patient “cleaned” her ears with Q-tips everyday, which is what landed her in the clinic.
People have a negative view of ear wax. They think its some gross stuff the body can do with out making. Actually ear wax is a necessity to the ear’s function. The glands on the outer ear canal produce the wax to catch airborne particles, such as dust and bacteria. The ear wax protects the eardrum from damage and infection that can be caused by dust and bacteria. (1 )
When using Q-tips some of the wax gets removed, but the rest of the wax is pushed deeper into the ear canal, closer to the drum. Overtime, as Q-tips are used ear wax packs down deep into the ear canal and becomes one big clog or ear wax blockage. As the Q -tip is used, the sticky ear wax pulls off fine strands of cotton which also gets packed and pushed down in the ear with the remaining ear wax. As a result of these ear wax clogs a person can suffer from the following conditions ( 2 ):
Stopped up feeling in the ear
A high pitched ringing sound in the ear
Aching pain deep in the ear canal
Other things that cause ear wax build up and ear wax clogs are ear plugs, hearing aids, and the ear phones used to listen to iphones.
Old ear wax is naturally dislodged as the ear glands produces new ear wax. The new ear wax pushes the old ear wax up towards the opening of the ear canal. There the old ear wax is within easy reach of your finger to easily remove. The new wax remains deeper in the ear serving its purpose until it is pushed out the ear by new wax. ( 3)
Having some ear wax in ones ears is nothing to worry about. Ear wax is normal. It is a necessity. Leave it in your ears. Do not try to remove it with Q- tips and other objects. This action can damage the ear. The ear will dislodge the wax in a safe way. The ear has its own ear wax removal system.
(1) Oliveira RJ (December 1997). “The active ear canal”. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology 8 (6): 401-10
(2) Guest JF, Greener MJ, Robinson AC, Smith AF (August 2004). “Impacted cerumen: composition, production, epidemiology and management”. QJM 97 (8): 477-88.
(3) Clegg, AJ; Loveman, E; Gospodarevskaya, E; Harris, P; Bird, A; Bryant, J; Scott, DA; Davidson, P; Little, P Coppin, R (June 2010). “The safety and effectiveness of different methods of earwax removal: a systematic review and economic evaluation.”. Health technology assessment (Winchester, England) 14 (28): 1- 192