Why You Should Think Twice Before Cleaning Your Ears

If you regularly reach for cotton swabs to give your ears a good clean, you should need to stop what you're doing right now because to according to experts, there's absolutely no need. Yep, you're completely wasting your time. Worse still, you may be doing more harm than good. As Dr. Kris Jatana, M.D., told MedicineNet, "The two biggest misconceptions I hear as an otolaryngologist are that the ear canals need to be cleaned in the home setting, and that cotton tip applicators should be used to clean them — both of those are incorrect." 

First of all, "The ear canals are usually self-cleaning," said Dr. Jatana. And according to Robert H. Shmerling, M.D. of Harvard Health Publishing, ear wax (medically referred to as "cerumen") is totally healthy. In fact, it actually works to protect your ears from dirt and dust while keeping the inside of your ear moisturized. And, let's be honest, after learning that, it deserves far more love than it gets.

Cleaning your ears with cotton swabs can do more harm than good

Secondly, putting cotton swabs in your ears is risky business. "Using cotton tip applicators to clean the ear canal not only pushes wax closer to the ear drum, but there is a significant risk of causing minor to severe injury to the ear," Jatana warned. According to ear specialist Dr. Yu-Tung Wong, doing so may bring on 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, loss of taste function, and even facial paralysis," he told Cedars-Sinai.

Basically, nothing should be purposefully inserted into your ear at all. "A good rule of thumb for most people is that they shouldn't put anything smaller than their elbow in their ear," Richard Harvey, professor of rhinology at the University of New South Wales and Macquarie University, advised Coach. In other words, leave your ear to clean itself!