The Dos & Don’ts of Ear Cleaning

If you have a habit of using cotton swabs or other small items to clean your ears, it’s time to stop.

Why? Because inserting things in your ear does more bad than good. In a blog post about ear cleaning, audiologist Stephanie Loccisano said, “Cotton swabs can push the earwax deeper into the ear, causing an impaction and preventing the eardrum from vibrating properly”.

Healthy Hearing’s article Why you Shouldn’t Clean Your Ears with a Cotton Swab said medical experts have seen punctured eardrums, badly impacted wax, and many other issues caused by cotton swab ear cleaning. Inserting things into your ear could damage your ear canal or eardrum, and could lead to hearing loss.

Earwax is not a bad thing to have. In fact, it’s there for a reason, and it does a lot of good. According to Loccisano, earwax prevents unwanted foreign bodies from entering the ear, keeps the ears from getting dry and itchy, and acts as an antifungal and antibacterial.

Earwax is a natural thing, and it usually exits the ear naturally too.

Loccisano said earwax can work its way out through jaw motions like talking and chewing. Healthy Hearing explains that the skin in the ear canal grows in such a way that earwax will usually loosen and fall out on its own.

So, for most people, a shower is all the cleaning your ears ever need. Wash your outer ear, but leave your inner ear to clean itself.

However, some people do experience more wax buildup than others, and it is more common among older adults and people who wear hearing aids.

Still, it is important to avoid self-cleaning using cotton swabs.

The symptoms of earwax buildup, which are listed in Loccisano’s blog post, include difficulty hearing, fullness or ringing in the ears, ear pain, an odor coming from the ear, and dizziness.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should visit your audiologist. If earwax removal is needed, Loccisano said your doctor can use water irrigation, suction or a curette to scoop out the earwax. They can also talk to you about safe ways to clean your ears at home if needed.
Keep your hearing healthy by leaving the cleaning to your ears, or your audiologist.