Just recently, a customer of ours came through the doors complaining of blocked ears. Below you can see the video of their microsuction session. Unfortunately, they had been using cotton buds for a number of years to clean out their ears. As you can see, this has caused numerous complications – the earwax, instead of being cleared out naturally, has become compacted due to the overuse of cotton buds. Still worse, you can see that the ends of the cotton buds have become lodged inside the ear, further exacerbating the problem and causing infection of the ear canal.
So, what should you look out for when using cotton buds? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions:
Can I use cotton buds to clean my ears?
Simply put, no, you shouldn’t. Although it may seem tempting – even satisfying – to do so, you can quite easily do as our previous client has here and push the cotton bud further into the ear canal. If you do this, it becomes more and more difficult to get out, eventually resulting in what audiologists call ‘impaction’ – compression of the ear wax into a solid, tricky-to-remove mass.
Overuse of cotton buds can also result in a perforated eardrum (tympanic membrane), and, in the worst-case scenario, puncture through the ear canal and cause complete deafness, prolonged vertigo, nausea and vomiting, loss of taste and even facial paralysis. It’s not worth it!
What if I only clean the outer part of my ears?
Almost everyone who uses cotton buds claims that they are doing so carefully. Nevertheless, accidents can still occur, and they do frequently. Our client here certainly did not intend for the ends of the cotton bud to become dislodged into their ear canal, but sometimes these things happen. It’s always best to err on the side of caution.
So what’s the best way to remove excess wax?
Earwax has beneficial properties: it’s a self-lubricating and self-cleaning part of your body’s natural processes and helps fight off bacteria and fungus. For the most part, earwax comes out of your ears naturally thanks to the in-built system your body uses. This system boils down to a form of cell migration, which in turn carries out wax from the ear canal to the outside of the ear wherein it simply flakes away.
In certain cases, this process may be obstructed and earwax will build up, and sometimes you can just produce more than is necessary. The best forms of removal are those performed by audiologists like us at Hear4U – Microsuction, Endoscopic Microsuction, Ear Irrigation and Manual. However, it is always best that you use the experts rather than attempting any of these yourself.
What removal products can I get from a pharmacy or over-the-counter?
That said, you can buy certain things that will help ease the earwax out of your system. Lubricants such as specialized olive oil for ears, Earol, can be extremely useful in loosening built-up wax so that it comes out naturally. A far better alternative than cotton buds!