Picture of cotton swabsAre you a chronic swabber? You know the old trick of sticking a cotton swab as deep into your ear canal as possible in an attempt to get out ear wax? If that is part of your normal hygiene than it’s time to make a change.

The adage that you shouldn’t stick anything in your ear smaller than your elbow holds true. The fact is you are not really accomplishing anything when you do and you might be causing damage. Consider some reasons that cleaning those ears with cotton swabs is a bad idea.

A Little About Ear Wax

The goal when you clean your ears is to remove any built up ear wax, but is that really necessary? Ear wax plays a critical role in your ear health. For one thing, it is a natural antibacterial, so it helps keep ear infections at bay. It also lubricates the skin in the ear canal, and without it, your ears will become dry and itchy.

Eax Wax Blockages

It’s true that too much ear wax is a bad thing. On a good day, your ears clean themselves as old ear wax moves out of the ear canal then flakes away. Little things you do each day help stimulate that process like chewing food, but it doesn’t always work perfectly.

Ear wax can build up and create a blockage that interferes with your hearing. You may experience ringing in your ear when that happens, as well. Unfortunately, sticking a cotton swab into your ear only tightens that pack of wax. You push any ear wax in front of the blockage into the dammed up area and then slide the old ball further into the ear canal.

Along with making the blockage worse, you run the risk of hurting the delicate mechanisms of the ear. You might poke a hole in your eardrum, for example. The swab may scratch the skin surface inside the canal causing an infection, as well.

Cleaning Out Ear Wax

Start by wiping down the outside of your ear with a clean cloth. Apply a few drops of mineral oil or saline and let it sit for up to 30 minutes to soften the wax. You can use an ear syringe to flush the ear with lukewarm saline. See your ear doctor, too, especially if your hearing doesn’t improve. A quick ear exam and a professional hearing test will tell you if there is more going on than just ear wax buildup.