How do you clean your ears? The majority of people will reach for a cotton swab, dab it in some water, and then insert it into their ear to help get rid of the wax. It feels like you’re doing a great job, and then you see how much wax is on the cotton bud – so you must have given them a good clean!

Unfortunately, if you use cotton swabs for ear cleaning, then you’re making a vital mistake. Contrary to what you’ve been led to believe, they’re awful for cleaning your ears. Why? Well, here are just a few reasons that show you what can happen when you use cotton swabs:

They push earwax further back

When you insert a cotton swab into your ear, you’re basically just pushing against your earwax. It might appear that you’ve removed a lot, but you’ve really just pushed the wax further back down the canal. All this does is make the wax much harder to remove, while also causing blockages that impact your ability to hear correctly. This is especially bad if you’re a regular wearer of hearing protection like earplugs as they already push wax back into your ear. So, you end up making the problem worse with cotton swabs.

You can cause damage to your eardrums

Similarly, pushing all that wax down your ear canal will eventually drive it into contact with your eardrum. This is a huge problem as your eardrum is highly sensitive. Speak to an audiologist, and they’ll tell you that it only takes the slightest contact with your eardrum to rupture it. This leaves you with a perforated eardrum, which will eventually heal, but it will also cause pain and discomfort. Plus, if you clean your ears with a cotton swab – and there’s no earwax blocking your path – the swab itself can quickly hit your eardrum and cause the same issues.

You actually need your earwax

It might surprise you to know that earwax isn’t a bad thing. Yes, it looks gross, but it serves a critical purpose. It’s in your ear to stop infections by killing any harmful bacteria that gets into your ear canal. Not only that, but it prevents things from getting into your ears like bugs and dirt. To add to this, it works as a natural lubricant in your ear canal to stop dryness from occurring. Earwax is designed to basically remove itself from your ear too. Daily activities, like talking and eating, will push the wax out towards the exterior part of your ear. Then, this is cleaned when you wash in the shower. So, by using cotton swabs, you’re potentially getting rid of something your ears need to stay healthy. It can slow down earwax production, which puts your ears at risk!

Do you even need to clean your ears if the wax is naturally removed? The answer is yes, but only if you have a severe build-up of dry wax that’s causing a blockage or pain. When this happens, you should use things like oil drops to help lubricate the ear and get rid of the wax, or even a professional ear cleaning treatment from your audiologist.