Cotton buds are a common household item that we use for many things. They’re great for cleaning around the house and removing ear wax, but there are some drawbacks to using them. If you’re one of the millions of people who use cotton swabs to clean their ears, you may want to rethink your cleaning methods. Cotton swabs can do more harm than good in the ears, and it’s important that you know why.
If you have ever used cotton buds to remove earwax, you may have been told that they can be dangerous. It can be tempting to use cotton buds (or cotton swabs) to remove earwax, but this is not recommended by doctors.
Here we explain more reasons to not use cotton buds to remove earwax and why it is not a good idea and what you should do instead.
Cotton buds don’t clean deep enough. The outer ear canal is only about 2 mm wide, so it’s difficult for cotton buds to reach down this far and clean properly. The ear canal is too narrow for the tip of a cotton bud to fit into it, so it’s impossible to remove all the wax from your ears. The tip of a cotton bud can also become dislodged and then work its way deeper into your ear canal, which can cause serious problems.
Cotton buds are not designed for this purpose and can actually cause damage if used incorrectly. The cotton tip of the bud is made of soft paper that can easily become stuck in the ear canal and cause injury or infection. This can even lead to perforations in the eardrum. The stem of the bud is also not designed to be inserted into your ear, so it should never be used for this purpose either.
Cotton buds can push debris further into your ear canal, causing discomfort and even infection if left in place for too long. They may also break off inside you and get stuck there, which is painful and can cause damage to sensitive areas of the ear canal. If you push too hard on your eardrum or inner ear canal with a cotton bud, you could cause damage that leads to permanent hearing loss or vertigo (dizziness).
Earwax is produced by glands in the outer ear canal. It helps lubricate the ear and prevent dirt build-up. This wax can be removed by a doctor or nurse during a routine ear examination, or it may fall out on its own over time.