You might have heard that Q-Tips are bad for cleaning the inside of your ears, but if you’re like me, you were probably never told why it is so bad for your ears.
If you have childhood memories of your mother poking Q-Tips into her ears, we have bad news for you: Mothers might not always know best.
“It’s sort of an urban myth that that’s the way you should clean your ears,” says Stephen Rothstein, MD, an ear, nose, and, throat (ENT) doctor at NYU Medical Center. Even the Q-Tips box itself warns against using the cotton swabs for earwax removal, he adds.
What makes them so bad in the first place? As Erich P. Voight, MD, an otologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, explains to businessinsider.com, Q-Tips only make matters worse. Sticking one deep inside the ear actually pushes wax further inside the ear canal instead of cleaning it out. The wax then gets stuck there as more wax builds up on top of it, creating a dangerous blockage or “impaction.”
Roughly half of the population suffers from some level of impactions, which can lead to all kinds of medical problems, including dizziness and hearing loss, according to Southwestern Oklahoma State University researchers. Don’t count on other home remedies like over-the-counter ear cleaning kits, vacuum tools, and peroxide to fix the problem either, says Dr. Rothstein. Once a blockage is formed, only a medical professional can flush it out.
But that’s not even the worst part. Research shows that Q-Tip mishaps are a major cause of ear-related ER visits among U.S. adults, mostly due to cringe-worthy consequences like bleeding ear canals and punctured eardrums. Yikes!