For many of us, digging our ear canals with the cotton ear buds or Q-tips to remove the lump of wax is a habit hard to give up on. What adds to this is the pleasurable sensation one feels while using a cotton ear swab. This is due to the fact that the inner tunnel of the ear is a sensitive area laden with a complex system of nerves and nerve endings.
However, the doctors have a bad news.
As much as pleasure and the feeling of cleanliness one might get by scooping out wax from the ear, this habit is strictly advised against. In fact, medical students are often taught not to insert anything smaller than the size of an elbow, inside one’s ear.
Buds are useful for a variety of things, but using it for cleaning the ear is not one of them. American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, issued guidelines stating that cotton buds, should not be used for cleaning ears.
Buds are actually counter-productive, since they push the wax further inside the ear canal, which eventually impacts the ear drum. The ear drum is a sensitive organ, and a little carelessness on part of the individual can perforate it, which can even cause temporary hearing impairment.
Actually, there is no need of removing earwax in the first place. Earwax isn’t inherently dirty. It is produced by the glands inside the ear and is absolutely healthy to have a normal amount of it in the ear. It protects our ears from various infections and other damages. Apart from this, it also has antibacterial properties.
Ears need not be cleaned, for it has a self-cleansing mechanism. It is similar to a conveyor belt wherein the old wax is pushed out from the ear canal to the opening of the ear due to the movements of the jaw during talking or chewing, etc. Most of the old and dry flakes are simply washed out during a shower. So if we find wax piled up close to the ear drum, more often than not, it is because we have pushed it ourselves by using the buds.
Many of us are ignorant of the different harms caused due to the use of cotton buds. A study of 141 medical professionals showed that more than 90% of people stuck not just cotton buds, but also match sticks and safety pins in their ears to clean them. Sticking ear buds or other similar materials down the ears may cause irritation, which tempts the individual to twiddle about even more – it is like a vicious cycle.
Though the presence of a normal amount of wax is absolutely healthy, in cases where a person may feel that the wax build up is blocking the ear, he/she should consult an ENT specialist. Such individuals may need ear drops which soften the wax. If this doesn’t help, a trained professional may have to remove the wax.