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Why you shouldn't use a cotton swab to clean your ears

Contrary to popular belief, using cotton swabs to clean out your ears isn’t necessary, and using them can even damage your ear or cause an infection. 

The ears have a normal mechanism to remove wax from the ear. So you should never put anything inside the ear, such as a cotton swab, because you will push the wax inside, to some degree. 

The best way to remove wax from your ear is to do nothing. Allow the ear to move the wax out on its own. Earwax is only produced in the outer part of the ear canal and is typically moved out of the ear by its own inherent mechanism and aided by chewing and other jaw movements. 

If you feel your ears are getting plugged up and affecting your hearing, it’s possible they will need to be cleaned out, but only by a physician.

If you are in need to having your ears cleaned, it’s important that this be done under visualization. Ears should never be cleaned by a blind mechanism, such as irrigation.  

There are a couple of different reasons why people may get a build-up of wax in their ear:

  • As we age, the composition of the wax can change, making it more dry
  • You can develop thick, course hairs at the outside of the ear canal
  • Some people may have really small ear canals 
  • Some may produce a lot of wax and the ear canal is overwhelmed

The only appropriate way to clean your ear on your own is to use a washcloth, wrung out well, and to only wash the outside of your ear and the very outside of the ear canal. 

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