Ear Problems

Stop Cleaning Your Ears

If you think you’re being extra hygienic by cleaning the inside of your ears every day with a cotton swab, you might want to take another look at your routine.

In a Mayo Clinic Minute program, Dr. Karthik Balakrishnan, a Mayo otorhinolaryngologist, cites a warning from the American Academy of Otolaryngology that you’re probably doing yourself more harm than good by attacking your ears with cotton swabs.

“It feels good,” he says in the program, “and you see some wax on whatever you put in your ear. So you feel like you got it out.”

But just the opposite is true: instead of cleaning out your ears, Balakrishnan says, you’re actually pushing wax deeper into the ear. And, he says, most people’s ears do a good job of “self-cleaning” – making the “removal” even more unnecessary.

He and other experts say it’s OK to use a cotton swab to clean the outside of your ear. Other than that, though, steer clear of the ear canal.

Some people, Balakrishnan says, do have trouble with dry or sticky wax that can’t work itself out. In that case, he says, see a physician so your ears can be safely cleaned out.

Additionally, you should see a doctor if your ears become plugged or if you have difficulty hearing.

The bottom line, endorsed by the American Academy of Otolaryngology: Don’t put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear.

For more information about health issues, visit www.mayoclinic.org.

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