“Hold on, I just found out I am not supposed to put Q-tips in my ears! But, how am I supposed to keep my ears clean?”
We can’t count how many times we’ve heard our patients say that they were “today years old” when they found out that Q-tips weren’t meant to go into their ears. If you look carefully on the back of a package of Q-tips, it actually warns you to never put them into your ear canals. Many people still use them because the act of getting something orange or brown out on a Q-tip is satisfying, giving you the feeling like you’ve cleaned your ears. However, using Q-tips actually pushes ear wax deeper into your ear canal where it can dry out and get stuck, causing a blockage or even infection. The use of Q-tips can also irritate, scratch or cut your ear canals, and you run the risk of painfully perforating your ear drums.
The human body is an amazing thing. Did you know that your ear canals are naturally self-cleaning? Our ears produce a thin layer of sticky ear wax that catches dust or debris, preventing it from getting too deep into the ear canal. The skin of the ear canal actually grows outward (kind of like a moving sidewalk), pushing any old wax or captured debris out of the ear canal. Once this debris has reached the outermost portion of the ear canal, meaning it is right at the opening, you can clean it. We recommend gently rinsing the area in the shower and then drying it with a fluffy towel. For the majority of people, rinsing off your ears in the shower and then drying all the nooks and crevices with a towel afterward is all the cleaning that is ever necessary. The old adage to never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear is true!
Occasionally, someone’s ear canal curves a little too sharply or is too narrow to allow the skin to grow outward naturally, causing their ear wax to build up deep in their ear canal. This is no fault of their own and does not reflect poor hygiene, but simply means that their ear canal is not straight or wide enough to allow the wax to grow out and it is building up on its own. If this happens to you, you may notice a full sensation or muffled sound in your ear. At Northland Audiology and Hearing Services we have the equipment and expertise to quickly and easily clean your ears. Please give us a call to schedule an appointment at 907-789-6780!