In 1923, Leo Gerstenzang introduced a product onto the market that was the forerunner of what we nowadays call the cotton swab or Q-tip. It was made of wood instead of plastic or paper, had one end instead of two, and was used to clean babies, not ears.
But somewhere along the way, things went wrong. Now, many of us blissfully ram cotton swabs into our ears trying to remove wax and other things. And this is despite the fact that many manufacturers put warning labels on cotton swab packages.
Doctor Dennis Fitzgerald told The Independent: “People come in with cotton-swab-related problems all the time. Any ear, nose, and throat doctor in the world will tell you they see these all the time. People say they only use them to put make-up on, but we know what else they’re using them for. They’re putting them inside their ears.”
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Even if it feels good for the moment, using cotton swabs can lead to problems. And the more you use them, the more you’re scratching your the inside of your ears. Dennis Fitzgerald points out, among other things, these three points that show why you should never use put cotton swabs in your ears.
1. Earwax is healthy
Wax helps protect our ears by keeping away debris and bacteria. Thanks to wax, the ear canal and eardrum are kept moist and clean, while the ear canal is also protected by the wax’s antibacterial properties—the exact opposite of what many people think. “What you’re taking out is supposed to be in there,” Dennis Fitzgerald told The Independent.
2. Cotton swabs can lead to hearing problems
Cotton swabs can damage the ear because of their size and shape. The fact is, when you “clean” your ears with a cotton swab, you’re pushing wax toward the eardrum rather than pulling it out—which in turn can lead to infections and hearing problems.
3. Cotton swabs can damage the eardrum and bones in the ear
When you push a cotton swab too deep into your ear, it can rupture the eardrum or damage the delicate bones inside your ear. “[It] happens more than you would think,” Dennis Fitzgerald said to The Independent.
Then how should you clean your ears? Well, the body actually removes excess ear wax on its own. Daily Health Post writes that ear wax moves every time your jaw moves—like when you eat, talk, chew gum, yawn, or laugh—which in turn means that your old wax is already being pushed out!
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