Many people use cotton swabs to clean out excess ear wax or water after showering. But did you know that cotton swabs can damage the ear drum pretty easily? It’s true: cotton swab injuries are common. The delicate inner ear tissue can be damaged, the ear drum can be scratched or punctured, and vertigo or deafness can result.
Since there is a danger associated with the use of cotton swabs, you may wonder what can be used to clean excess wax, dirt and build-up from the ears?
Ears are self-cleaning.
Ear wax is a sign of healthy ear function, so it’s not a bad thing. Our ears are pathways that connect the outside world to our brains, which could expose us to harmful bacteria or other debris. Earwax can trap these potentially harmful things, preventing them from reaching our brains.
Ear wax is a defense mechanism, and a critical way to keep us safe and healthy. Unless you are one of the few people who have an overproduction of wax, it’s usually not necessary to clean your ears at all. Chewing, talking, and other jaw movement helps ear wax to travel down the ear canal and out of the ears.
Do you have an overproduction of ear wax?
Rarely a person may create too much ear wax and it can become impacted, blocking the ear. Impaction is buildup that may block one or more functions of the ear. Impaction can be uncomfortable or even painful, and can cause temporary hearing loss (once the blockage is removed, hearing is restored).
Impaction can also have symptoms like tinnitus (ringing in the ear), pain, odor, dizziness or a cough.
If you often wear ear plugs, they could also prevent ear wax from escaping the ear, causing impaction as a result. An oddly-shaped ear canal could also affect natural ear wax migration.
How can I remove ear wax?
If you suspect ear wax impaction, schedule an appointment with your audiologist or doctor. Once you know the situation, your doctor can recommend a course of action.
If needed, your doctor can remove impacted ear wax in the office and give you tips for the best ways to prevent the problem in the future.
How to clean your ears without cotton swabs:
- Use a warm, moist wash cloth to remove outer ear wax. This will allow for the removal of excess wax without pushing it deeper into the ear.
- An over-the-counter ear wax softener, found at your local drug store, work to soften the wax and make it easier to remove. Ingredients in these drops may include saline, peroxide, baby oil, mineral oil, or glycerin.
- An irrigation syringe may be used to flush ears with saline solution. This is a gentle way to rinse the ear canal, and is can be even more effective if an ear wax softener is used first.
If you still prefer cotton swabs, use them for the outer part of the ear canal. Don’t insert them into your ear canal and always use a gentle, circular motion .
We’ve served San Jose and the Bay Area for over 40 years, providing the right solution for Your Life. Your Style.
The information provided in this article is not meant to be medical advice and is for educational purposes only. If you would like to learn more about this and other topics related to audiology, feel free to contact Los Gatos Audiology, with a convenient hearing center located in Los Gatos, CA, by clicking here or by calling 408.703.0772.