As a child, you were probably told to clean inside your ears. But one common cleaning method – scrubbing inside the ear with a cotton swab – could be doing more harm than good.
Child ear injuries by the numbers
A recent study looked at the emergency room and doctor’s office visits to treat ear injuries related to cotton swabs among children between 1990 and 2010. During that time, there were more than 263,000 of these injuries – about 12,540 every year.
Younger children were injured more often – 67 percent of all patients were younger than age 8. About 40 percent were age 3 or younger. Most of the injuries occurred while using a cotton swab to clean inside one’s own ears. Injury types included bleeding, ear pain, hearing loss, and dizziness.
Control earwax without swabs
Earwax is perfectly natural. Jay Shah, a pediatric otolaryngologist with University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s, said, “Your body produces earwax as a way to clean the ear canal, as well as lubricate it and protect it from bacteria.”
Dr. Shah advised, “In general, ear canals do not need to be cleaned unless earwax starts building up near the outside of the ear. Even then, a damp cloth will usually do the trick.”
Using a cotton swab to clean inside the ear can lead to impacted earwax, which can cause:
# Hearing loss
# Ringing in the ears
# Rarely, trauma to the eardrum
“If you’re worried about earwax building up inside the ear, try other options, such as earwax removal drops or baby oil, which can be performed at home. Please never use cotton swabs to clean the ears. Please leave it to a health professional to clean earwax if needed,” said Dr. Shah.