Cleaning our ears with cotton buds does feel nice, but it’s actually harmful

September 12, 2019 - 1:56 PM
Health professionals do not recommend cleaning the ear with cotton buds. (Needpix/Stock photo)

A Facebook user warned the public against using cotton buds in cleaning ears as he recounted that he almost lost his hearing because of the activity.

Media program researcher Daeron Carlo Pabiloña shared that he suffered from an ear infection and had an impacted ear which was attributed to his excessive cleaning of the particular body part.

The infection was triggered when his family went to Batangas for his cousin’s “despedida” or farewell trip in August.

“After soaking sa beach at sa pool. I felt a heavy pressure coming from my right ear. ‘Di ako makarinig all of a sudden. Nilagnat at sumakit ‘yung ulo ko (nang) sobra at namaga ‘yung right ear ko,” Pabiloña narrated.


Posted by Daeron Carlo Pabiloña on Wednesday, September 4, 2019


When he went to a doctor to have it checked—specifically an ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialist—it was discovered that his right ear was already suffering from an infection due to impacted earwax.

“Hindi siya puwedeng magalaw dahil namamaga rin ‘yung ear canal at ‘yung ear drum,” Pabiloña added.

The physician gave him antibiotics and topical medication to treat it for a week before a procedure was finally performed, which he described as “extremely painful.”

“Sabi ni doc, parang coral reef ‘yung loob ng ear canal. Sa sobrang linis raw ng ears ko, napasok na lahat ng earwax sa loob,” Pabiloña recalled.

“After doc tried to extract the impacted earwax, hindi niya matanggal sa sobrang tigas (iniiwasan niyang dumugo) at hindi ko na kayang i-tolerate ‘yung sakit. So I have to go back ulit after, palalambutin muna ‘yung ear wax,” he continued.

Pabiloña said that he “almost passed out” during the extraction procedure because of extreme pain.

“Sobrang sakit niya to the point na parang matatanggal na ‘yung skin sa loob ng ears. Dumugo ‘yung skin ko sa loob ng tenga sa sobrang kapit nung earwax,” he said.

Pabiloña ended his post with a firm warning.

“Guys, never ever use cotton buds to clean your ears kahit gaano kasarap ‘yung feeling na dinudutdot ‘yung cotton buds sa loob. It’s a nooooo. (Okay lang naman linisin ‘yung outer area basta ‘wag ‘yung kaloob-looban),” he said.

Cotton buds
Health professionals do not recommend cleaning the ear with cotton buds. (Unsplash/Sharon McCutcheon)

Pabiloña suggested that damp cloths could be used as an alternative for cleaning the outer ears.

“Kasi the cotton buds push the earwax deeper, akala lang natin lumilinis,” he said.

A Facebook user, who claimed to be a medical assistant of an ENT physician, attested to his post by saying that it is not recommended to use cotton buds in cleaning the inner ear.

“Earwax is normal to our ear, it serves as moisturizer,” he said.

The user added that cotton buds may be used on the outer ears “once a week” to remove excess earwax.

“‘Wag itulak paloob, talagang magbabara po ‘yan. Once na araw-arawin mo kasi ‘yung cotton buds, mawawala ang earwax na nag-se-serve na moisturizer at kapag nangyari ‘yun, magkakaron ka ng ear infection or amag,” he continued.

Another Facebook user claimed that her eardrums got ruptured due to excessive cleaning from cotton buds.

“Nangyari na sa akin ‘yan, na infection. Butas na eardrum ko dahil sa cotton buds,” she commented.

Not necessary to clean inner ears 

While it has become a habit for many people, health professionals are against the use of cotton buds to clean the ears. In fact, they do not recommend removing the earwax at all since it acts as a moisturizer and has antibacterial properties, among others.

Dr. Luisa Dillner, a physician and publishing director at the British Medical Journal Publishing Group, said cotton buds do not remove earwax.

Instead, it pushes the earwax down to the ear canal and impacts the eardrum which could possibly lead to its rupture.

“And there is no need to remove wax anyway—it protects our ears from infection and damage, has antibacterial properties, and traps dust and dirt in the ear canal, thereby stopping it from reaching the more delicate eardrum,” she wrote in a column.

“This self-cleansing includes a conveyor belt mechanism by which old wax is shunted out of the ear canal to the opening of the ear by the movement of the jaw through eating or talking. The old, dry wax flakes off or gets washed off in the shower,” Dillner added.

“Wax is made in the outer third of the ear canal, so when it is seen piled up against the eardrum it is often because we have shoved it down there ourselves. The bottom line is that most ears do not need to be cleaned, except on the outside,” she said.

Healthline suggests that people instead use a damp cloth in cleaning one’s outer ear. If one wants to remove earwax, it is recommended to use eardrops to soften it until it is removed.