12% of Brits use cotton buds correctly: here's how to remove ear wax safely

Are you guilty of cleaning your ears with a cotton bud? [Photo: Getty]

It may prove weirdly satisfying to poke around your ears with a cotton bud at the first sign of wax build-up but it’s a widespread habit that certainly bugs the NHS.

According to medical advice, you should never clean the insides of your ear with a cotton bud, your fingers or any other object – with the risk of causing hearing problems or even perforating the eardrum.

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Yet despite the warnings, a recent YouGov study reveals that 63% of Brits continue to use cotton buds incorrectly.

Of the 1,730 people surveyed, more than a fifth admitted to hoarding a cotton bud stash solely for the purpose of cleaning their ears.

Interestingly, men are more likely than women to practice the bad habit with 31% owning up to it in comparison to 14% of women.

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In fact, only a small majority of Brits use the cotton bud for its correct purpose. Findings indicate that one third (32%) use them for cleaning items around the house while 24% use them for fixing nail polish mishaps.

24% of Brits use cotton buds to fix any manicure mishaps [Photo: Getty]
24% of Brits use cotton buds to fix any manicure mishaps [Photo: Getty]

A further 22% use them to remove make-up with 18% delving into their bathroom cupboard for arts and crafts purposes.

The study concludes that overall, just 12% of us are using cotton buds for the right reasons.

But the surprising study comes amid news that a 31-year-old British man recently developed a life-threatening bacterial infection, that eventually spread to the lining of his brain, after the tip of a cotton bud got stuck inside his ear.

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How to safely remove the build-up of ear wax

According to the NHS, persistent headaches, earaches, hearing difficulties, tinnitus and/or dizziness can be early signs of having too much ear wax.

If the wax does not fall out on its own, it is recommended that you insert two to three drops of olive or almond oil in your ear twice a day for a few days.

Over the next two weeks, the earwax should fall out on its own – especially while you sleep at night.

If this doesn’t prove successful, you should seek advice from your local GP or pharmacist who can prescribe appropriate drops.