Should You or Should You Not Use Q-tips

When purchasing a box of q-tips we usually have one plan for use in mind, even though there are no instructions on a box of Q-tips on how to clean your ears. The instructions for use range from cleaning the grout between your tiles, make up-removal and the cleaning of electronics. Unfortunately we live in a litigious society and ear trauma with a q-tip is the “fault of supplier not the user”. If you tend to produce a lot of ear wax, and you know who you are, then q-tips are a bad idea. They will push the wax in further, block the hearing and make it harder to eventually remove. There are over the counter ear cleaning kits which are affective for many people, read the directions carefully before you use them. Some people will do ear candling with some very good success, but remember the people performing ear candling do not look in your ear to confirm whether or not you have wax to remove. Many patients will have successful wax removal by their primary care physician. If these methods are unsuccessful for you then a visit with your local ENT will do the trick.

Those of us that are not wax builders and have used q-tips successfully and safely for much of our lives may use q-tips at their own risk. Be careful, I have had not one but 2 patients answer a telephone with a q-tip in the ear, this is very traumatic to the ear drum and the small bones in the middle ear and can potentially damage your hearing permanently, thus the old adage “nothing in the ear larger than your elbow”. It is hard however, to get the water from the shower out of your ears with your elbow. If you are not sure and concerned about using q-tips, you can take the corner of a towel or a tissue with your finger and just clean or dry the ear where you can reach. The ears have a great ability to take care of themselves and usually do not need our help. Wax is produced as a lubricant and a protection to the ear canals. Small amounts are a natural lubricant; large amounts can be uncomfortable, itchy and can affect hearing. People may be genetically prone to excessive wax production or they have dry skin or “eczema” in the ear canals where the ear may produce more wax in attempt to stay moist. This will be best diagnosed by your local ENT.