When earwax attacks

By • Published: November 10th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Feeling a little waxy around the ears? Don’t reach for that cotton swab! While most folks view the Q-tip and its cotton-swab brethren as a crucial part of ear-cleaning protocol, putting swab to ear is actually an ill-advised move.

That’s because earwax isn’t actually a nuisance that must be destroyed at all costs. Like just about every other part of your body, earwax has a mission. Wax actually keeps your ear canal clean and lubricated.

And for most people, earwax drains out on its own. Swishing a swab around inside your ear to nab wax can actually shove it further into your ear, and that can lead to what’s known as an earwax blockage.

If left to build up over time, earwax can become impacted in the ear and can damage your hearing or even cause infections. If you have pain, itching or ringing in your ears, you may have a problem.

So without even a cotton swab to turn to, what’s a person in need of ear cleaning to do? New guidelines devised by doctors and audiologists suggest applying a few drops of mineral oil or baby oil in the ear. You can also try ear irrigation products geared specifically toward getting the wax out.

Another smart move? Check in with your physician. Millions of people visit the doctor each year for earwax problems.

No matter your choice, don’t wax nostalgic for your cotton swab. It still has about one-thousand other uses.