Cleaning the insides of our ears from ear wax is something that we’re all do, despite the fact that most people know that this process can potentially cause more harm than actually help.
The most common cleaning tool for the ears is the ear swab, which just pushes ear wax deeper into the ear canal and may lead to impaired hearing.
Sujana Chandrasekhar, MD, an otologist/neurotologist for the New York Head and Neck Institute at Lenox Hill Hospital, says she always has patients who have grown into the habit of using swabs to clean wax out of their ears.
Chandrasekhar says she has heard of all manner of things being stuck into ears just to clean out the wax, including bobby pins, pens, the earpiece of eye glasses, and even keys. People usually think cotton swabs are good for cleaning the ears because they’re soft, but the truth is it can actually scratch the inside of your ears, causing irritation and damage.
According to Dr. Christopher Chang, an otolaryngologist in Warrenton, Virginia:
“Generally speaking, the ear canal is self-cleaning. You really don’t have to do a whole lot. In certain individuals, earwax can build up in the ear canal—and you don’t want it to build up to the point where you can’t hear. But the majority of folks don’t have to do anything.”
Here are better alternatives to help you get rid of this habit:
1.) Dr. Chang recommends that people buy an ear syringe form the local drug store to flush the ear wax out gently with body-temperature water.
2.) An effective at-home remedy for loosening dry, compacted wax is to put the oil in your ear for 15 to 30 minutes, and then use an at-home irrigation kit to clean it out, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery.
3.) If you can’t help yourself from breaking the ear-swabbing habit, at least do yourself a favor and be careful. Try to not go too deep, going at 1cm max of the ear canal.
The harm that ear wax, also known as cerumen, can cause is actually very minimal; in fact, it actually functions in keeping the ears clean, so removing it frequently can also cause bacterial infections to occur.
Keep these things in mind the next time you clean your ears, and try not to hurt yourself.