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Cotton Ear Buds, We've all heard that cotton swabs shouldn't be used to clean our ears, but so many of us still reach for one the second we think we have a buildup of earwax or some water stuck in our ear.
Cotton Ear Buds
Are the rumors true?
Is it actually dangerous to use cotton swabs in our ears?
And if so, what are we supposed to do instead?
To find out, we talked to a histologist (ear specialist) Dr. Yu-Tung Wong.
Q: Can I use cotton swabs to clean my ears?
Dr. Wong: No! It says so right on the back of the box: DO NOT USE IN EARS!
Using a cotton swab like a plunger in the ear canal pushes the earwax deeper and deeper in. One problem is that if you push the wax deeper inside, there's no way for the wax to get swept out of the ear.
Cotton Applicator (wooden handle)
Also, cotton swabs can cause punctured eardrums and hearing loss. In severe cases, the cotton swab can damage many sensitive structures behind the ear canal and cause complete deafness, prolonged vertigo with nausea and vomiting, Cotton Applicator loss of taste function, and even facial paralysis.
Q: What if I only use cotton swabs in the outer part of my ears?
Dr. Wong: Every patient who uses cotton swabs emphasizes that they are very careful about limiting the depth of insertion. However, accidents are called accidents for a reason.
A patient was recently referred to me after she put a cotton swab in her ear and accidentally bumped it, pushing the swab deep into the ear canal, which caused immediate pain and bleeding. Her eardrum was almost completely destroyed, with only a tiny sliver remaining.
Cotton Swab Applicator
Fortunately, Cotton Ear Buds her internal hearing organs were not damaged, so we can perform surgery to replace her eardrum and improve her hearing. If the cotton swab had gone a few millimeters deeper, she may have lost all of her hearing permanently.