Why You Should Avoid Cleaning Your Ears with Cotton Swabs

Many people think nothing of using cotton swabs to clean their ears in Boone, but doing so is risky. Inserting any object in your ears can lead to impacted earwax, a ruptured eardrum or worse. Think twice before sticking anything in your ear canals!

Cotton Swabs Nearly Cost Australian Woman Her Life

jar full of cotton swabs

A 37-year-old woman from Australia made global headlines recently after her cotton swab habit led to a life-threatening infection that eroded her skull and caused permanent hearing loss.

The woman, identified only as Jasmine, obsessively cleaned her ears with a Q-Tip every night. One evening, she noticed a little blood on the tip of the swab. She wisely scheduled an appointment with her physician, who discovered that her consistent use of cotton swabs had led to an infection in her ear canal that ate away at her skull bone, leaving it “paper-thin” and resulting in a hearing impairment.

Jasmine’s condition is a worst-case scenario, but it illustrates the potential dangers of regular, long-term cotton swab use. According to an article in the Journal Of Pediatrics, approximately 263,338 children under the age of 18 were treated in hospital emergency rooms between 1990 and 2010 for injuries sustained from using cotton-tipped swabs.

These numbers illustrate the misconception that people need to clean their ear canals thoroughly. Earwax provides a protective layer against dust, dirt and other particles, and natural jaw movements cause it to secrete on its own. There is no need to speed up the process unless abnormally large amounts of wax build up, in which case you’ll need to turn to a medical professional to assist with safe removal.

Q-tips and cotton swabs don’t just pose a physical hazard to the thin membrane of the eardrum; they can also introduce germs and bacteria into the ear, potentially leading to infections of the inner or middle ear. Their proximity to the brain and vestibular system make serious complications a possibility. Jasmine can attest to this!

The bottom line is this: cotton swabs offer no medical benefits, but can pose a serious risk to your health. And consider this: most are made of plastic, meaning they are non-biodegradable and harmful to the environment. One more reason to steer clear!

Your Boone audiologist recommends gently cleaning the outer portion of your ears using a damp washcloth. Otherwise, don’t worry about cleaning your ear canals—they do a fine job on their own!