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Utah: 435-688-8991 Nevada: 702-896-0031

What Your Q-Tips Could Be Damaging

What Your Q-Tips Could Be Damaging

Millions use Q-tips, also called cotton swabs, cotton buds, cotton applicators or similar names for the piece of cotton on a stick used for personal hygiene. Many ignore the old wives’ tale of “Don’t put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow.” Tell your children this, and watch their attempts at what they can cram into their ears for free entertainment. Is this simply an wives’ tale, or is there wisdom in this adage?

An Overview of Ear Health

Earwax lubricates and protects the ear canal, and the motion of the jaw naturally removes excess dried earwax. Cleaning ears with cotton swabs and other small items can push ear wax deeper into the ear canal into places it doesn’t belong. Fungus, bacteria and viruses from the outer ear can enter the ear canal, causing health problems. Excess wax can block hearing, even rupturing the ear drum in some cases. Maybe mom’s advice to keep these objects out of your ear was right after all. In fact, cotton swabs are designed for use outside of the ear canal, not inside. Unfortunately, sometimes the ear just itches like crazy, tempting us to scratch the itch with a cotton swab. Often, inserting cotton swabs into the ear causes the itch instead of helping the problem. This removes natural lubrication, causing dryness. Dry skin worsens the itch, so we stick the cotton swab in the ear to scratch the itch. This creates a harmful cycle, all the while pushing wax farther and farther into the ear canal. Enough scratching can cause bleeding and infection. Overall, the lesson is clear: practice the “elbow rule.”

Possible Signs of Hearing Problems

What should you do if your ear continues itching? What about water trapped behind the ear? What other options should you use for cleaning the ear? Physicians recommend other ways to clean the ear if it is medically necessary. The best option to tackle this problem is to call your doctor and seek professional help. What should you do if you’ve been cleaning your ears with Q-tips for years? What should you do if you’ve been cleaning your children’s ears in the same way? Again, consult a professional for medical help if you notice any abnormalities. Hearing loss is a one key sign of a possible problem. While it might be difficult to notice in young children, the following tips can help:

  • Difficulty understanding the persons speech
  • Intently watching lips to attempt lip reading
  • Imitating instead of speaking
  • Speaking differently from peers
  • Misunderstanding questions
  • Turning up the television, tablets or other devices to unreasonably loud volume levels
  • Often responding with “what?” and “huh?’
  • Complaining about painful earaches or regularly irritated by noises or
  • Failing to notice or respond when their name is called

To avoid hearing loss, bacteria, fungus, dry itchy ears and infection in the ears and to make mom happy by following her advice, use the cotton swabs on the outside of the ear instead of digging for gold. Your ears will thank you later.

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