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Why Q-Tips Pose A Risk To Hearing Health

Q-tips that have gone to far into an ear.

Many people think they’re practicing proper hearing health when they use Q-tips to remove wax from their ears.

The truth is that they may be doing more harm than good.

Why We Need Earwax

It may seem at odds with conventional thought, but earwax (also called cerumen) is actually designed to keep the ear canal clean. The cerumen is a layer of protection for the skin of the ear canal, helping repel water and prevent infections. Wax helps keep dust and dirt away from the eardrum while providing lubrication.

Most people require no extra measures to keep their ears clean – the skin of the ear canal will naturally push out excess wax. However, approximately 12 million Americans visit their doctor each year for impacted cerumen. Some people produce excessive amounts of wax and may require periodic cleanings to keep their hearing health in optimal condition.

The Dangers of Q-Tips

When you insert a Q-tip into your ear, you are removing some wax, but you’re also potentially pushing more wax further into your ear canal. Pushing the swab too far into the ear can rupture the eardrum and lead to permanent hearing loss.

If the wax is pushed deeper into the ear, the impacted material can block the canal and impair hearing. Water can also get trapped behind the wax, causing discomfort.

If you do use cotton swabs, stick to the outer part of your ear, keeping them away from the inside of the ear.

Treating Excessive Wax

You should schedule an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional if you experience partial hearing loss, earache, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), a plugged-up feeling or itching in the ear.

After the ear is professionally cleaned, you can keep your ears free of excess wax by:

  • Soften wax twice a day by using an eyedropper to apply baby oil, mineral oil, or hydrogen peroxide in the ear canal
  • After a day or two, irrigate the ear by using body-temperature water inserted with a rubber-bulb syringe or earwax removal kit. Tilt head to the side to drain the water.
  • Avoid using ear candles, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns can cause injury.

Hearing Associates in Mason City, Iowa can help prevent hearing issues and ear discomfort by conducting periodic cleanings. Call us at 888.760.2032 or contact us online for more information.