Along with plucking eyebrows and clipping nails, using a cotton bud in an effort to clear excess earwax out of the ears is a part of many people’s personal care regime, so much so that it’s often something that becomes an automatic habit, ingrained since childhood.
At the Hearing Centre, we see many patients with earwax-related problems which have often come about as a result of pushing cotton buds or other foreign objects into the ears. The good news is that most cases of hearing loss or other ear problems caused by inserting cotton swabs can be resolved with micro-suction earwax removal.
However, prevention is always better than cure. Hearing Centre audiologist Claire Marshall explains why you should always follow the number one rule of ear care – never push a cotton swab or any other foreign object into your ear.
Why cotton buds can cause hearing problems
Many people are taught by their parents that cotton buds are the best way to remove earwax. However, inserting them into your ears is a big no- no. If you are an adult with a lifetime of swab-based earwax removal behind you it’s possible that your efforts to keep your ears clean and blockage free may already have caused some hearing impairment.
This is because even though you will probably see some earwax on the cotton swab when you attempt to clean your ears this way, the act of inserting a swab into the ear only results in you pushing old ear wax further down into the ear canal where it could become impacted and cause hearing loss.
Why swab cleaning can result in ear pain
Our ears are delicate and sensitive parts of our anatomy. Anyone who has ever inserted a swab too hard and too quickly into their ear canal will remember the sharp, stabbing pain it causes. If you’re lucky, the pain caused by doing this will pass in seconds, however cuts, tears and lacerations relating to cleaning ears with swabs are common. Certainly if you have young children, you should teach them never to clear their ears in this way as their lack of fine motor skills means they could be more susceptible to injuries of this kind.
Why we need earwax
Earwax (also known as cerumen) is essential for our ear health. In fact, rather than being something we need to constantly get rid of, earwax is nature’s ear-cleaning and protecting substance produced by glands in our ears specifically for this purpose. Earwax benefits our ear health in the following ways:
- It traps dirt, debris and dust, stopping it from travelling further down the ear canal where it could cause damage.
- It effectively protects your ears against bacterial, viral and fungal infections.
- Its lubricating and moisturising properties keeping dryness and flakiness at bay.
- Earwax is a natural repellent to insects who are put off entering your ear by its smell.
Nobody wants unsightly earwax to be visible to others. However, as we have seen, the earwax that finds its way to the outer part of ears is soiled earwax that has been pushed through the ear canal. Pushing this debris-ridden earwax back down into the ears with a swab is going against the ears’ natural cleansing process and can result in the problematic build-up of dirty wax in the ear canal. All that’s usually required to keep on top of your ear hygiene is to gently clean your ears with a flannel in the shower. However, when you do this, it’s important to also remember to gently towel dry your ears to avoid developing the water-related ear infection swimmer’s ear.
When earwax is a problem
All of us are different and some people produce too much, not enough or the wrong consistency of earwax. If you feel this is the case for you, it’s important to book an appointment with an audiologist to investigate further. Similarly, if you use a hearing aid, it’s important to follow the manufacturer and your audiologist’s guidance carefully on caring for your ears and your hearing aid in order to prevent any earwax-related problems that could impact the effectiveness of your hearing aid.
Treating the build-up of earwax
If you think you have a problematic build-up of earwax in your ear canal, the first step is to make an appointment with an audiologist at the Hearing Centre. If your suspicions are confirmed with a diagnosis, we can use our state of the art micro-suction equipment to gently, safely and painlessly remove the build-up of ear wax in your ears, usually taking less than half an hour for both ears. With the use of video otoscopy we can show you the build-up before removal and also give you the peace of mind of seeing the results after the procedure.
Expert earwax removal in the Market Harborough and Leicester area
At the Hearing Centre all micro-suction earwax removal procedures are carried out by a fully qualified audiologist who is registered with both the Health and Care Professions Council and the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists. To book a consultation please call us on 0116 254 3909 or fill in our online booking form.