It’s the everyday routine that can put you in excruciating pain… and even cause you to lose your hearing.
I’m talking about using a cotton swab — or any other object — to try and get at whatever you think is lurking inside your ear.
If you’re guilty of this seemingly innocent habit, put down the Q-tip, tissue, cotton ball, or anything else you’re poking into your ears! Because it could send you to the ER in absolute agony, just as it does for thousands of others every year.
And even though your ears are probably just fine and not in need of any routine maintenance, there may be times when some excess wax gets annoying. If that happens, there’s only one thing you should be doing on your own.
Nothing smaller than your elbow
As lots of people have found out the hard way, earwax is there for a very good reason!
Known in the medical world as “cerumen,” it protects your eardrum from dust, dirt, bacteria, and as one unlucky ear-poker found out — bugs.
But despite all the things we’ve heard about the absolute necessity of earwax — and the danger of putting things into our ears — it hasn’t stopped a whole lot of people from doing some pretty severe damage to them.
Ear specialist Dr. Eric Carniol recently discovered that close to 70 percent of the nearly 5,000 people in the U.S. who landed at the ER for a “traumatic tympanic membrane perforation” (a punctured eardrum) caused it by pushing “instruments” into their ears.
And the weapon of choice appears to be that cotton-tipped swab.
Interestingly, adults aren’t much better than tots when it comes to injuries caused by sticking something in their ears. In the long run, of course, it doesn’t matter if the harm was caused by a crayon, a little plastic toy, or a Q-tip!
Other experts, however, believe the numbers of injured ear-cleaners is much higher, as Dr. Carniol’s study doesn’t include those who toughed it out and waited to see their own doctors or specialists… or those who ended up in one of those urgent care places.
Punching a hole in your eardrum isn’t just unbearably painful — it could mean you need surgery to repair it. And even if it does get fixed, you may never get your hearing back to normal.
So, why do we still believe that we must clean our ears as religiously as we brush or floss our teeth?
Nothing could be farther from the truth — our ears have what’s called a “self-cleaning mechanism.” Earwax gradually moves up and out all on its own.
And whatever you see on the end of that Q-tip is nothing compared to what you just pushed deeper down into your ear canal.
Dr. Carniol said that if we take “nothing else” away from his study, it’s “please do not use Q-tips to clean your ears.”
Of course, there may be times when you feel that self-cleaning feature isn’t working very well, and your ears may feel blocked due to excess wax. And that’s when you have to resist the urge to stick that cotton swab in!
The one and only way you should try to clear excess wax out of your ear yourself is to soak a cotton ball in plain water, salt water, or hydrogen peroxide, tilt your head with the bad ear up, and squeeze a few drops inside.
Hold that pose for a minute or so, and then turn your head the other way to let the solution and wax drain out.
If that doesn’t do the trick, it’s time to let a professional take over the job. As Harvard docs advise, an ENT can handle your earwax problems “with more expertise, a better view, and better tools.”
But whatever else you do, you never ever want to put anything smaller than your elbow into your ear!
“Cotton swabs still a major cause of eardrum perforations” Shereen Lehman, December 28, 2017, Reuters, reuters.com