Most people regularly use cotton buds to keep their ears clean, which is a laudable intention. However, it is important to underline that ears are not conceived to be cleaned because they have their own cleaning system. By introducing foreign bodies into the ear, there is a risk of disrupting this natural process and even of causing serious injuries to the external auditory canal or the eardrum. The American Academy of Otolaryngology warns against the use of cotton buds and, what is more, links the forced cleaning of ears to the risk of hearing loss. Earwax, or cerumen, acts as a self-cleaning agent and offers protection and lubrication to the external auditory canal, as well as the antibacterial properties necessary to protect the outer ear. The absence of earwax may result in dry, itchy ear. Earwax flows naturally out of the ear and this process must be respected.
When we use cotton buds, the earwax may be pushed back into the external auditory canal, in areas where it should not be, thus causing an earwax blockage that can get stuck and clog the eardrum. This may cause several complications and lead to hearing loss or, if pushed even further, eardrum damage. In the same way, any bacteria and viruses that are outside the ear will find suitable conditions to multiply. Finally, the earwax blockage may result in an inflammatory reaction: the external otitis, which is very painful. Therefore, ears should be cleaned only externally, in their visible part, with water and soap, like the rest of the body. In the event of ear pain, hearing loss, tinnitus and/or itching, an ENT specialist can assess the presence of wax accumulation and intervene with appropriate techniques and equipment, in order to extract it.