Cotton buds are a common consumer product that we all use after a shower. However, experts suggest that this practice of using them to clean your ears may do more harm than good. While earbuds allow for easy ear cleaning and help prevent the accumulation of dirt and wax, it's important to be cautious.
Earwax is a natural substance produced by the cells lining the outer ear and ear canal. It consists of a natural oil produced by the mammary glands, which mixes with dirt, sweat, and dead skin cells, ultimately forming the earwax we clean away with cotton swabs.
Earwax acts as a protective barrier, safeguarding the ear canal against harmful viruses and bacteria. However, if you experience earaches, recurring itching, or difficulty hearing, it may be a sign that your ears need more thorough cleaning. Dr. Ji Lin, an otolaryngologist at the University of Louisville, explains that while you may need to visit the doctor for professional cleaning, there are some things you can try at home.
Dr. Lin suggests that it's perfectly fine to clean the outer part of your ears with cotton swabs. However, he warns against using them to clean deeper into the ear canal. He explains that these earbuds are a bad idea as they can push the wax deeper into the ear canal.
"In a worst-case scenario, the wax can compress against the eardrum, potentially leading to hearing loss, earache, itching, or buzzing in the ear," he adds.
Dr. Lin also mentions a few alternative methods that are worth considering, although he advises seeking expert guidance before trying them. These include using "ear candles," which involve inserting hot wax into the ear, or pouring hydrogen peroxide into the ears while lying on your side to allow the fluids and dirt to drain out. However, for safer solutions, he recommends the following:
Use ear drops:
The ENT doctor suggests using ear drops to help with wax buildup. The liquid solution helps to thin and soften the earwax, facilitating its disintegration and removal from the ear. It is advisable to consult a doctor.
Try this baking soda solution:
According to Dr. Lin, there is another way to clean the ears using a common kitchen cupboard item. You can prepare an easy solution by dissolving half a teaspoon of baking soda in water and using a dropper bottle to administer the liquid.
Tilt your head to the side and insert five to ten drops of the solution into the ear. After approximately an hour, the wax should soften and wash out, although in some cases, it may need to be removed using a plastic syringe. Consult a doctor.
A surprising use for olive oil:
You can try using natural remedies, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or mineral oil, to clean your ears. These oils can help remove earwax. Similar to the baking soda solution, use a dropper to introduce the oil into the ear. Wait a day or two for the wax to soften, then rinse the ear with warm water. Consult a doctor before attempting this method.