Ear Swabs- Helpful or Harmful?

Source: Healthy Hearing.

The ear canal has specialized cells that produce cerumen, commonly known as ear wax that may accumulate faster in some people and can lead to wax build-up. This build-up of wax may cause decreased ability to hear and pain in some instances. An easy way to avoid seeking a medical professional, many people use swabs to remove the excess wax which causes more harm than doing good.

The eardrum can easily be reached with a swab. As the eardrum is so delicate, it can easily get ruptured by applying the gentlest pressure. When an individual experience a punctured eardrum the pain is severe, and the ear may also leak a clear fluid. It can take time for a punctured eardrum to heal and can also lead to a conductive hearing loss.


In most cases, ear canal requires no cleaning. While bathing or taking showers enough water enters the canal to loosen the wax that has accumulated. The skin in the ear canal grows naturally in an outward spiral pattern and the wax goes out with it. Most of the time the wax loosens and falls out itself while you are asleep. The need for swabs isn’t necessary.

Smaller objects like cotton swabs, house keys, hairpins and, toothpicks can easily be used to clean our ears and we all love to use them. But these objects are risky as it can cause cuts in our ear canals, puncture our eardrums and disrupt our hearing bones which can later lead to hearing loss, dizziness, and other symptoms of ear injury.

Instead, people can let nature do its job. Our bodies produce earwax to keep our ears lubricated, protected and clean. Dirt or dust might enter our ears and get stuck to the wax, thus helping such particles from moving farther into the ear canal. Our jaw motions from talking to chewing, along with skin growth helps to remove old earwax from inside.


If our ears are blocked with wax it can be tempting to use cotton swabs or any other smaller objects to clean them out but doing so it could make the situation worse and can cause a hearing problem because these Q-tips pushes the wax down the ear canal towards the eardrum and its impact is bad.

Dr. Rob Hicks says, “There’s no need to clean your ears with a cotton bud. It has its own cleaning mechanism”. Fats and oils in the ear canal trap particles and push them out as wax. In most circumstances, the wax is beneficial to the ear. It causes foreign bodies to adhere to it and prevents them from going further into the ear. It also has anti-bacterial properties. Removing the wax makes the underlying skin of the ear more susceptible to infections.

For those who have heavy wax build-up, they might need a trip to the doctor. As they can easily remove the wax with a little peroxide mixed with water and injected into the ear. The process is painless and is effective. If excess wax becomes a frequent problem, then learn from your physician how to do the procedure at home.

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