This is why you really need to stop sticking cotton buds in your ears

Please stop using cotton buds to get rid of ear was [Photo: Getty]
Please stop using cotton buds to get rid of ear was [Photo: Getty]

Ear wax is one of life’s grimmest annoyances. But it’s nothing a good clean with a cotton bud can’t sort, right? Wrong.

Because new research reveals that using cotton buds in your ears can lead to some pretty alarming health risks including hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo.

Plus, using the buds ups your chances of contracting a nasty ear infection.

New research by Earex found that, despite constant recommendations from NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence), a massive 76% of people are still regularly using cotton buds to clean their ears.

And 35% of people wrongly believe the intended use of a cotton bud is for removing earwax or cleaning or itching the ears.

Of those in the cotton-bud using gang, one in five dooes so weekly and a further 22% use buds up to 14 times a week.

Almost one in ten of those who are guilty of the practice admits that they actually enjoy seeing the collection of wax that is removed.

Equally as grim, almost a third of people use cotton buds in the inner ear as it feels good and because they just can’t resist the urge to itch. Bleugh!

Using cotton buds can lead to all sorts of ear health problems [Photo: Getty]
Using cotton buds can lead to all sorts of ear health problems [Photo: Getty]

“Cleaning the ears with cotton buds can feel very satisfying. However, in doing so, you can very easily damage your ears by pushing the wax even further into the ear canal, causing the wax to become compacted, which can result in more concerning problems, such as hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo,” explains Dr Henderson, leading GP and Earex expert.

“Earwax plays a vital role in maintaining good ear health and is produced inside the ear to keep them clean and free of germs,” Dr Henderson continues.

“It usually passes out of the ears harmlessly, but sometimes too much can build up and block the ears. Other factors that can increase the risk of earwax problems include having narrow or hairy ear canals, and being elderly, as earwax becomes drier with age.”

So if we’re not meant to be using cotton buds in our ears, what are they for then?

Apparently, the intended use of a cotton bud, as typically advertised on the product’s packaging, is to gently clean and dry in-between baby’s fingers, toes and around the eyes, nose or outer ear.

They’re also rather handy for fixing your make-up when you make a mistake.

Further reasons to bin the bud habit are the possible health consequences using them could cause including hearing loss, experienced by almost half of people (44%), closely followed by tinnitus (26%) and vertigo (15%).

Ear infections are also a common problem, as experienced by one in three. Use of cotton buds within the ear will only exacerbate this and all the problems mentioned above.

So what should we do to clean out our ears when wax woes get too much?

Dr Henderson advises that ear drops offer the answer for effective wax management: “I’d like to encourage people to swap the cotton buds for ear drops, which offer a much more effective way to manage earwax.”

You really need to stop using cotton buds to clean your ears [Photo: Getty]
You really need to stop using cotton buds to clean your ears [Photo: Getty]

And Dr Henderson has some other tips to stay ahead of the earwax game:

Switch your headphones

Though it may be tempting to use in-ear or bud headphones, this can worsen earwax build up. That’s because extensive in-ear headphones can act as a ‘stopper’, preventing the wax from dispelling naturally.

Likewise, in just one hour of wearing bud headphones the number of bacteria in the ear increases by 700 times. Instead opt for over-ear headphones to help your ears clear wax naturally.

Chew it over

Chewing can help move old wax from inside the ear to the opening allowing it to clear naturally. While you chew, the continuous movement of the jaw helps to dislodge wax from the ear canal, making the natural removal process much easier. Chewing sugar-free gum can work wonders for this.

Wax lyrical

Don’t be embarrassed to seek help for your ear concerns. Earex research highlighted that people are reluctant to discuss their ear care problems, with most talking only with close friends and family (11%) or a health care professional (22%) and one in 10 preferring not to discuss their ear care problems at all.

Your pharmacist is a good place to start when opening up about your ear health concerns. Pharmacists are a great source of advice and can recommend suitable remedies, such as Earex Advance Ear Drops, for effective wax management.

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