This Will Make You Stop Cleaning Inside Your Ears

This Will Make You Stop Cleaning Inside Your Ears
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Many people regularly clean their ears with the best intentions of keeping them clean and healthy. However, ears are not designed for cleaning. In fact, they have their own hygienic regime in place, and by sticking objects into the ear, you are only disrupting this natural process. Or worse, causing an injury.

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The American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNSF), warns against the use of cotton-tipped applicators and the habit of probing into your ears. On their official website, they connect the over-zealous ear cleaning with the risk of hearing loss.

Ear wax, medically known as cerumen, is a healthy feature of your ears and acts as a self-cleaning agent. It has protective, lubricating and anti-bacterial characteristics. It migrates from the ear drum to the ear opening, cleaning the ear canal, and then drying and falling out. This is a self-regulating process and in normal circumstances, there is no need to interfere. If there is an absence of ear wax, the ears become dry and itchy.

What happens when you use cotton swabs to clean your ears?

When you use cotton swabs, you are actually pushing the wax deeper into your ear, and into the area where it shouldn’t be. It can get stuck and blocked against the ear drum, which can cause all sorts of complications.

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Fungus, bacteria and viruses from the outer ear get pushed into the ear and can cause infections, which are extremely painful. Second, if the wax is jammed deep inside the ear canal, it can cause hearing loss. If it gets shoved even further, it can damage the ear drum and result in a rupture.

Should the ears be cleaned at all?

Ideally, your ears should never be cleaned. By cleaning the inside of the ear you are only creating a vicious cycle. Dr. Douglas Backous, M.D., chair of the AAO-HNSF and director of hearing and skull base surgery at Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle, explains that when you constantly rub the skin of your ears, a lot of histamine gets released. This makes the skin irritated and inflamed. And the more you scratch, the more it itches.

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The only time that ear wax should be cleaned is when you’ve been assessed by a doctor, who has noticed wax accumulation (cerumen impaction). The condition presents with symptoms such as earache, hearing loss, tinnitus, itching, odor and discharge. The ear should then be cleaned by a medical professional.

If you do want to continue cleaning your ears, do not insert anything into the inner ear! Clean only the external ear (which is also the recommendation of cotton swabs manufacturers), using a cloth.

You can also use gentle at-home irrigation if you really have to or just cannot leave your ears alone. Dr. Backous recommends a mixture of one part white vinegar, one part rubbing alcohol and one part tap water. Makes sure it’s at body temperature and use a few drops in each ear.

Another option is to use food grade hydrogen peroxide for ear wax removal.

But the bottom line is that you shouldn’t be putting anything into your ear. Just let the body do its magic!

And if you or your child suffers from ear infection, you can also try this healing oil to treat ear infection.

Read my other related articles:

Resources:
http://www.entnet.org/content/earwax-and-care
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/21/dont-clean-ear-qtip_n_5600401.html
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33 Responses to This Will Make You Stop Cleaning Inside Your Ears

  1. Wyocowboy says:

    is it ok to do the ear candle wax remover once in a while?

  2. arty says:

    When i was 7 i had a surange done on both side of my ears. Is that really bad??

    • Jenny says:

      You mean “syringe” – sometimes using syringe is necessary if the blockage cannot be removed by using ear drops only. You can read more about this treatment in NHS website under “ear irrigation” where you can find when it is not recommended to do it, see here – http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Earwax/Pages/Treatment.aspx. The better treatment is Microsuction and you can read about it in the same website, but it is not widely available.

  3. Jensee says:

    Of course WebMD isn’t going to recommend a natural treatment. That’s not their JOB. Their job (M.D. = DOCTOR OF MEDICINE) is to sell meds. Anything which may interfere with that job, isn’t going to be recommended. Common sense. None of us steer people away from what we’re selling.

  4. Britney says:

    I have a problem with cleaning my ears, and the goo just won’t stop coming out everyday. Its annoying because I cant hear, and it smells gross and leaks everywhere. I just wonder how long it’ll take for it to stop the leakage after I quit using the Q-tips. Or if I should seak medical help. The Doctor also told me that my weight had something to do with it?

    • Jenny says:

      Hi Britney, you probably need an ear irrigation. Before your doctor performs an ear irrigation, he or she will look inside your ears to ensure that your symptoms are the result of excess wax buildup and not something more serious. Read more about ear irrigation here – http://www.healthline.com/health/ear-irrigation#Purpose2

    • Erik Loza says:

      Britney, are you sure you don’t have an ear infection? One day I was finding a lot of something that I thought was ear wax, in my ears, and it smelled horrible. I kept cleaning the ear, but eventually went to the doctor suspecting that it could be an infection, and it was.

    • Tom says:

      Sounds Like You May Have Ear Infection
      Try Putting Peroxide In Them & Lay On Your Side Till it Stops Fizzing You May Need Help W This One Unless You Have an Eye Dropper Then Dump it out Onto a Towel ~ Then Use the High % Rubbing
      Alcohol To Dry Them Out ~ Do Both Sides
      One At a Time ~You Can Also Use an Ear irrigation bulb With Warm Water To Flush Them Out ~ If This Does Not Help
      Then See a Dr

  5. Kerrie says:

    I consistently clean my ears with q tips 3-4 times a day because it feels good. It’s something I’ve probably been doing for the last 10 yrs or so. How quickly does wax build up from one day to another. My biggest concern would be losing my hearing down the road but if I don’t give the ear enough time to build wax, am I even pushing any wax back to the eardrums?

  6. mike wood says:

    I’ve been cleaning my ears with Q Tips for 35+ years and my ears are fine. I push it in gently, rotate around and slide it out. It’s amazing how much wax comes out! I could not imagine how much wax would be in there if I didn’t clean them.

  7. Katie Kate says:

    How then, are we supposed to use ear buds so we can tune out from the world around us and be completely antisocial all the while running into things while we text and listen to the music we’ve just downloaded while someone who loves us is trying to have a conversation with us? Being completely facietious of course. This is just more proof that we should evaluate how we are living. This is my sons complaint and why he continually vkwans his ears. I’m so glad I had a childhood before technology took over.

  8. Suzanna says:

    I clean my ears out once every morning after a shower… I have had tubes put in my ears when i was a young kid and if i don’t use the q-tips once a day i get ear infections easily… When i do use the q-tips i get maybe an ear infection once a year, maybe.. I am 46 years old and the last tube just fell out in the last 2 years and i have always cleaned my ears out and i am not going to stop… Ear infections are annoying and i can’t keep taking the medications to make that go away cause it just lowers ur immune system… antibiotics.

  9. Jim says:

    I’ve used earplugs for over 20 years at work. Whenever I’ve gone for a checkup the Doctor says my ears look fine. I’m glad I’ve used earplugs because I would hate to think of the hearing loss I would have without out them. But isn’t that the same as sticking a q-tip in my ears. I wear the earplugs for 4 hours and throw them away at lunch and put in a new pair for the rest of the day. Just wondering. I can hear fine and I’ve got the cleanest ears around.

    • Jenny says:

      Hi Jim, I’ve read that ear plugs may block the outward flow of earwax and that sometimes if they are pushed in too far, they can can also pack the wax deep inside your ear canal. However I guess that if it didn’t cause you any trouble for so long, then you probably don’t push them too far inside the ear or/and you don’t suffer from excessive earwax, which is great.

  10. kyle says:

    Never clean my ears with qtips, or anything else. I figure the wax is helping keep stuff out of my inner ear. My hearing us better than yours!

  11. Angela says:

    My ears have water in them after showering and washing my hair. I always gently whizz around a cotton tip to dry them or the wetness in annoying and uncomfortable.

  12. Selim says:

    Hi! My girl is only 2 yrs old and she has an earwax that is somewhat black in color and not the usual which is just soft.It’s kinda hard that can’t be removed.She can’t lie sideways for long coz her ear aches badly. But not until I bought an eardrops that has a docusate sodium content to soften it, that’s the only time that she allows me to peek on hear ears unlike before that she won’t even let me touch it…

  13. Ree Ann Stepp says:

    If I don’t swab, my ears will itch. I have never had enough wax to talk about.

  14. Bill says:

    I have always had a cerumen problem but I use the q-tips to dry my ears out and not necessarily about cleaning them but I think I am going to stop that also. I saw another article that says there are tiny hairs in your ears that are damaged anytime you put something in your ear canal and that damage is what causes tinnitus and hearing loss. Guess the old addage of “don’t put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow” really should be adhered to!

  15. Rukayat Adaji Mohammed says:

    Hi Doc.
    some mouths again my son had a severe ear pain and Dr. told us that one of the ear drum was inflamed. Although he us ok. now but my question is how dangerous is this and is there any side effects?

    • Jenny says:

      Hi Rukayat, first of all I’m not a doctor. Second, often severe ear ache and inflammation requires antibiotics. I’m not sure what your doctor said or given to your son, but if the pain continues, you need to follow it up with the doctor as it should not be left untreated.

  16. glen smith says:

    My Mom always said: “NEVER put anything in your ears smaller than your elbow???” I’m now old with good hearing. Mom was right. 🙂

  17. P1P2 says:

    I’ve been cleaning my ear canals for 38 years now and never had a problem at all.

  18. Eric Daniels says:

    Well, i think I can share my vital experience with the readers. As you may have some people build up ear wax faster than others. I’m somewhere in the middle.

    First, let me say I never use cotton swabs/Q-tips inside my ears and reading this article validates why avoiding this practice is a good idea. Recently, my healer told me I had too much wax in my ears. I placed several drops of Dobrex (over the counter ear wax solvent) in the morning and headed to a nearby medical clinic where I REQUESTED ear irrigation. The doctor examined and confirmed I had was in my ears and then instructed the assistant to wash my ears which is done with a water syringe. Now let me say this. I did not have any obvious ear wax symptoms before the treatment but let me tell you, the relief, oh, I felt SO much better throughout my ENTIRE body. Conclusion, excess buildup even if you don’t have any of the symptoms listed in the list, may exert stress on the rest of the body in some cases. In my case, the relief was obvious. I repeat this procedure every couple years with good results. Hope this helps.

  19. Tertia says:

    After a Dr used a serynge to clean my ears he managed to damage the eardrum causing nausius severe pain and balance problems
    That was 20 years ago
    I have had constant itching in the ear canal ever so often Regular visits once a year to a Specialist has proved to help untill recently
    The itching became unbearable which had me using various toola ( the back end of a harpin , a toothpick a feather a wooden knitting needle to scratch it ever so gentle But an accident ocured and I pevorated the ear !!!!!! Stupid woman ! I agree
    I now have to have an operation to impair the hearingloss and only hope for the best
    See a ear specialist and get the expensive proper eardrops to clear the infection

  20. Marge says:

    Because of year round alergies, my ears itch a lot of the time! I am always scratching them with bobbypins, bid needles, Q-tips . Anything I can fit in my ear… WELL… I finally did it. I scratched my ear wth something, probably my fingernail and caused an infection!! Ugh! I ended up going to two different doctors. My ENT vacuumed out my ear, put me on antibiotics, and tol me that it wold take 3 months to clear the “ear glue” as he called it from my inner ear! :(. It has been 10weeks…. Ear still clogged and weird feeling. I can barely hear out of that ear. I HATE IT!! I have learned n
    My lesson . No more objects in my ears! My doctor also gave me some ear oil that stops the itching. All kinds of problems can come from this stupid infection, loss of hearing is the worst. Seriously, don’t put things in your ears. Especially dirty bobbypins and other objects 😊

  21. Josh says:

    When I was a child I went to the doctor for having what I thought was a really bad ear infection. My head was hurting so bad that the pain radiated down my cheeks and jaw; it was so bad that my mother took me to the hospital, where a doctor carefully examined my ear, and found that I had a popcorn cornel jammed in there. He got out this tool and used it to remove the object from my ear canal. At least 10 years passed without me having another ear problem. Occasionally, I would have problems with ear wax, which I used Q-tips to remove. Well, just recently (As in a couple of days ago from me making this post) I woke up with a clogged ear with a slight ringing sensation. So, I took a shower and made sure to wash out my ears thoroughly by running warm water through it. Well, after that, I used a Q-tip just to make sure I had gotten out all the gunk, but in doing so I must have impacted the wax. For this reason, I experienced a louder ringing sensation than before, and hearing loss. For the rest of the day I panicked, looking for information online as to what actually happened to my ear. I then waited a day to see if it would resolve itself on its own, but it did not. So, I went to the hospital to have a doctor take a look at my ear. And guess what? She found that I had a lot of wax in my ear, so much that she could not see my eardrum. She diagnosed me with bilateral cerumen, told me to use some eardrops for a week and sent me on my way. That was Friday evening; it’s now Sunday morning, and after using the drops for 2 days now, the fullness has gone down, but my hearing has only improved a little. I know someone who was able to wash away their excessive wax in a matter of minutes, but with me its a lengthy, agonizing process. I’m actually worried if I have a more serious condition coupled with the impact that the doctor might have overlooked. Well, I hope not, because I can’t afford anymore trips to the hospital!

    • Jenny Hills, Medical Writer and Researcher says:

      Hi Josh, I’m not a doctor and cannot give a specific advice so what I’m saying now is only from a personal experience. I suffer constantly from earwax buildup. In my case putting ear drops only does not solve the problem and using ear syringe (that looks like this one) is necessary. I use the ear syringe for many years and it works well for me. Another option is Microsuction which is a quick procedure where a small device is used to suck the earwax out of your ear and is done by your doctor. If these options don’t solve the problem then it’s best to see a doctor to find out if there is no other overlooked condition.

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