Woman holding a cotton swab up to her ear canal

You have probably never noticed, but on the backside of any package of cotton swabs there’s a warning that is some variation of this:

“Caution: Do not enter the ear canal with this product. Entering the ear canal could lead to injury.”

If you have a package of cotton swabs nearby, go take a look for yourself.

The thing is, it’s not just doctors, audiologists, and hearing specialists who advise against the use of cotton swabs to clean the ears—even the manufacturers of cotton swabs think it’s a bad idea!

So why, if the use of cotton swabs is such a widely used technique of ear cleaning, should it be avoided? Why are the manufacturers so adamant that you don’t use their own product in this manner?

We’re glad you asked: here are four reasons to never use cotton swabs to clean your ears again.

1. Earwax is invaluable

Earwax has quite a few useful functions aside from being gross. It has antibacterial properties to reduce the risk of infections, it functions as an insect repellent to keep bugs out of your ears, and it helps to lubricate the ear canal, which prevents dry, itchy skin.

2. Cotton Swabs force earwax up against the eardrum

Using cotton swabs can actually be dangerous. When you force any foreign object into the ear canal, you’re shoving most of the earwax up against the eardrum. This can rupture the eardrum or can bring about an impaction that will bring about hearing loss.

3. Earwax removes itself

The ear is crafted to remove its own earwax. The normal motions of your jaw—from talking, eating, or yawning—will push the earwax to the outer ear. All that’s required from you is regular showering and cleaning the external ear with a cloth.

4. Excessive earwax removal causes dry skin

Earwax has lubricating and antibacterial qualities, so if you eliminate too much, you’ll have a dry, itchy sensation and will be more susceptible to infections.

What to do instead

There are several commercialized (and homemade) solutions you can use to flush out your ears, which is considerably safer than inserting foreign objects into the ear canal. But bear in mind, if you’re having issues with excess earwax or you’re having trouble hearing, it’s always best to talk to a hearing professional.

>Hearing professionals are thoroughly educated in the structure and function of the ear, and can diagnose any issues you may have with earwax accumulation or hearing loss. It’s always a good plan to rule out more severe problems, and if cleaning is all that’s required, you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that it’s being done correctly.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.