Your mother was right – be very careful when cleaning your ears with cotton buds because they can cause an injury and damage your hearing.
This warning is backed up by hearing health professionals who say that putting things smaller than your elbow into your ear can injure the ear canal, ear drum or hearing bones. In fact, the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation recently put out new guidelines that advise people to stop over-cleaning their ears and using items such as cotton buds1.
"There is an inclination for people to want to clean their ears because they believe earwax is an indication of uncleanliness. This misinformation leads to unsafe ear health habits," said Dr Seth R. Schwartz, chair of the guideline update group.
"This effort to eliminate earwax is only creating further issues."
Do you really need to clean your ears anyway?
Earwax (otherwise known as cerumen) is a naturally produced substance that helps to clean and protect the ears. It also keeps them well oiled and prevents foreign matter such as dirt or dust from getting further inside.
"Patients often think that they are preventing earwax from building up by cleaning out their ears with cotton swabs, paper clips, ear candles, or any number of unimaginable things that people put in their ears," said Dr Schwartz.
"The problem is that this effort to eliminate earwax is only creating further issues because the earwax is just getting pushed down and impacted further into the ear canal."
The take home message is that anything which can be inserted inside the ear has the potential to cause serious damage, temporary or permanent, to the ear drum and canal.
"Anything that fits in the ear could cause serious harm."
Care for your ears and seek medical advice if needed
When it comes to caring for your ears, it's best to seek the advice of a professional. See a hearing health doctor if you are unsure about whether the ear cleaning method that you are using is right for you. Some people have medical or ear conditions that make some options unsafe. You should also seek medical assistance if you notice any signs of hearing loss, ear fullness or pain.
If you're keen to find out more about the best way to clean your ears or discuss any other concerns you might have about your hearing, click here to book a FREE* appointment, or call our team today on 1800 781 653.
1American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery. Experts Update Best Practices for Diagnosis and Treatment of Earwax (Cerumen Impaction) Important Patient Education on Healthy Ear Care – http://www.entnet.org/content/experts-update-best-practices-diagnosis-and-treatment-earwax-cerumen-impaction-important. Accessed 26 January 2017