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The Right Way to Clean Your Ears (Hint, No Q-Tips!)

“Never stick anything smaller than your elbow into your ear!”

Taking a cotton swab to the inside of your ears can be really satisfying — especially when it yields a bunch of built-up earwax. However, studies have once again surfaced that specifically advise people not to do this. Why is this, and if you can’t use cotton swabs, what’s the best way to clean your ears?

Understand the Role of Earwax

This sticky substance, also known as cerumen, helps keep your ear canals clean and lubricated. While you might think that cleaning your ears of it is good for your health, the opposite is actually true. Using a cotton swab can push the earwax further into your ear canal or even put you at risk of injuring the inside of your ears, leading to hearing loss. The only time you should attempt to get rid of earwax is when the buildup is causing earaches, hearing loss, or similar symptoms.

Avoid the Ear Canal

You might have heard the common saying, “Never stick anything smaller than your elbow into your ear.” This is something that doctors — and even cotton swab manufacturers themselves — agree upon. So, stop pushing Q-tips into your ears! The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery advises that you avoid ear candles as well. Instead, use a few drops of mineral or baby oil to soften up your earwax and an ear syringe to rinse the inside of your ears.

Wash the Outside of Your Ears

While you should avoid touching the inside of your ears, the outer parts are still game. Use a wet cloth and soap to clean your ears, and don’t forget to get behind them! It’s fine to use a cotton swab on the outside of your ears, so feel free to use one to get into the nooks and crannies that your cloth can’t reach.

Have Your Ears Professionally Cleaned

If your own work at home isn’t doing enough to clear excess earwax from your ear canals, you can schedule a doctor’s appointment to have it done professionally. Doctors have special instruments for removing earwax, and it’s definitely preferable to entrust your ears with a trained expert. Again, you shouldn’t have to clean your ears very often, but you can expect to have this procedure done once a year or so.

Cleaning your ears isn’t rocket science, and following these tips will ensure you healthy, happy ears. Leave the cotton swabs to your makeup applications and art projects instead!


[Image via Getty]

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