Though it is popular belief that cotton buds are great cleaning agents, experts say it is time to stop using them as they are more harmful than you think.
The first thing that many do after a bath or a shower is grab a Q-tip to clean their ears. After all, this soft and gentle cotton swab on a stick can hardly seem like something that can cause any harm, right? Well, not many are aware of the downsides of using something as simple as a Q-tip, but the truth is, frequent use of it can leave you with damaged eardrums and even infections that can harm your brain. And given how common this is, you want to be aware of everything there is to using a Q-tip.
While most of us do it with the intention of getting our ears cleaned, we do not realize the negative impact of using these apparent cleaning agents. It is also important to remember that the ear wax produced by the body is essential to keep the ears clean from dust, dirt and infections. They prevent these substances from entering into the ears.
Our ear usually pushes excess wax out of the ear when new skin grows in the canal. It naturally flakes off or gets cleaned during a proper shower. So firstly, you might not need everyday cleaning with earbuds.
Experts have also revealed why these can be dangerous to our ears and even affect our hearing ability. “Sometimes they just push the wax in further, and there also is the potential for damage to the eardrum," says Dr. Seth Schwartz to Reuters. It can also scratch the ear canal, which "can lead to pain and infection. Wiping away any excess wax when it comes to the outside of the ear is enough to keep it clean," he adds.
According to USA Today, a 31-year-old man was admitted in the hospital with left ear pain and ear discharge problem. He reportedly experienced nausea, headaches and even had trouble remembering names. Having struggled with ear pain for about five years, he had been treated with antibiotics to get rid of the severe infection. On further diagnosis, doctors found that the infection that had progressed from his ears into the lining of his brain was caused by a still-intact tip of a cotton swab that was stuck in his ear.
As it turns out, he had an infected skull tissue which required him to undergo a surgery for removal. As shocking and rare as it might seem, this is not the only such case reported. Another incident reported in Australia highlights how these cotton swabs can cause life-threatening infections. A woman identified as Jasmine who used earbuds every night for years found that she had developed a severe infection that eroded parts of her skull and left her with hearing loss.
Here are some more reasons that will convince you about the dangerous effects of sticking earbuds into your ears:
Cotton buds may seem extremely delicate and non-dangerous. However, it has the ability to cause damage to your eardrum. The eardrum is extremely sensitive to external pressure and so even the most gentle touch with a cotton bud can cause extensive damage in the long run. A punctured eardrum causes severe pain, leading to the discharge of clear fluid.
Though you might want to remove the ear wax, using cotton buds can sometimes push the wax further inside the ear. The wax may go deeper and cause damage to the skin of the canal or eardrum which are extremely sensitive. It is always better to see a doctor if you feel you have excess wax than using a cotton bud to dig it out.
“A little bit of wax will stick to the Q-tip and make the user feel great about themselves that they accomplish something, but chances are approximately 5-10 times more wax was pushed in,” noted Dr. Hamid Djalilian, a professor of clinical otolaryngology at the University of California, Irvine, according to Reuters.
Pushing the cotton into the ear to remove wax can go horribly wrong sometimes, and more often than not, it does the exact opposite of what you want it to. The force applied will cause the wax to stick together, making it more compact and harder to get rid of. The hardened wax cannot be removed as easily and can even cause hearing problems.
Earwax is not an impure substance that needs to be removed. It protects the ear from dust and other impurities and keeps our ears safe from infections. Using cotton buds to remove the wax daily can make your ear more prone to dryness, irritation, and even infections.