Earwax is, well, pretty gross, so it’s no wonder most of us reach for cotton swabs on a regular basis. But here’s the rub: There’s a good chance you’re putting your ears and your hearing at risk with every wax removal attempt.
This is according to Boris Chernobilsky, MD, assistant clinical professor of otolaryngology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
If you want to keep your ears in perfect shape, he recommends ditching the following habits ASAP.
Attempting to clean regularly
Most people actually never need to clean their ears. “Ears are self-cleaning,” Dr. Chernobilsky explains. “It is the only part of the body in which the skin grows in a direction, and brings the wax and skin debris out from the canal to the outer ear.” (When you move your jaw and chew, you’re assisting this process.) Some people have more earwax than others, but in general, the ears make the amount of wax they need.
So instead of digging for treasure in your ear canals, wait for the wax to loosen on its own and reach the outer ear. Then gently brush it out with a wash cloth.
Inserting cotton swabs
Cotton swabs are bathroom staples, but they’re not meant for use in the ears. It even says so on most packaging. The rigid, pointy shape can damage the skin, eardrum, and ossicles. Swabs can also push the wax in deeper and cause impaction, Dr. Chernobilsky says. One more unpleasant possibility: the cotton head can pop off in your ear canal. If that happens, you need to see a doc to have it removed.
Inserting any pointy objects
“People will stick just about anything they can think of into their ears when they feel discomfort—their long finger nails, bobby pins, sewing needles, keys, to name a few.” Anything sharp or shaped similarly to a cotton swab will pose the same risks of cutting the skin and damaging the inner and outer ear.
Putting water in your ears
In short: Your ears are not the place to build your own irrigation system.
Is there a safe way to remove wax?
Your best bet when it comes to earwax: Let it be.
Source: Time Magazine