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Doctor warns against using cotton buds to clean your ears

Doctor warns against using cotton buds to clean your ears

They say it can cause more harm than good

We all know how good it feels to use a cotton bud to get rid of a build-up of pesky ear wax.

Twisting the tip of the bud around inside your ear often provides instant relief. And, seeing the wax on the bud gives you that same sort of gross satisfaction as squeezing a really big blackhead.

But doctors warn that it actually does more harm than good.

Ear wax plays an important part in the health of our ears.

It traps and prevents dust, bacteria and other germs from entering and damaging the ear and also protects the delicate skin of the ear canal from getting irritated when it's exposed to water.

For most people, over time, the wax gradually makes its way to the opening of the ear where it will either fall out or be removed by washing.

But, for others, glands in the ear canal produce more wax than can be easily removed.

Doctors warn that using a cotton bud to clean your ears can cause more damage than good.
Unsplash/Alexander Grey

This extra wax may then harden in the ear canal and block the ear, causing a range of issues including earache, increased risk of infection and hearing loss.

Troublesome ear wax affects more than two million people every year but, with syringing to remove wax not routinely offered on the NHS and private treatments costing around £60, most people are forced to turn to home remedies.

The most common choice is to remove the wax with a cotton bud, however doctors warn against using cotton buds to clean your ears.

To start, using a cotton bud actually pushes ear wax deeper and deeper into the ear, making it harder to get it out in the long run.

Dr Martin Scurr told MailOnline: "As well as damaging the sensitive lining of the ear canal, worse, they may perforate the ear drum." Ouch!

The home remedy can damage the eardrum and cause longterm issues like vertigo and hearing loss.
Unsplash/Sara Groblechner

He continued: "The perforation doesn’t always heal properly, resulting in long-term impaired hearing — think of a tambourine with a hole in it, the membrane can no longer vibrate to pass on sounds to the hearing nerve."

In extreme cases, the bud can even damage sensitive structures behind the ear canal, causing deafness, prolonged vertigo and vomiting, loss of taste and even facial paralysis.

An RNID survey found that one in ten people who tried to remove ear wax themselves said their symptoms got worse or they caused themselves an injury which required medical attention.

So what exactly can we do?

Wax softening drops from your local chemist can help, but Dr Scurr always recommends seeing a medical professional for advice and definitely don't go sticking things in your ears.

Featured Image Credit: Getty Stock Images

Topics: News, Health