Q-tipSee the image on the left? Yup, the ever famous q tip! This little thing is used by thousands, even millions worldwide to clean their ears everyday.

But, did you know that using Q-tips in your ears can actually do you more harm than good?

Take a look at our skin. Everyday it gets dry, cells are being replaced by new skin cells everyday , we take a bath everyday just to keep our skin clean.

We also have similar skin lining our ear canal.

So, the question is do you have to clean your ears everyday , as you do to the rest of your skin? The answer is NO. you do not “NEED” to clean your ears. And the reason is EARWAX. ear diagram

A lot of people view earwax as just dirt in the ear canal. The fact is earwax helps protect your sensitive ear canal by trapping dirt, sand, insects and other foreign substances.

Earwax is the ear’s moisturizer, it helps prevent excessive dryness in the ear canal and on the outer ear. 

It also repels water.

And, it acts as an antibacterial agent- it helps prevent infection.

Think about it, we already have this built-in self-cleaning, moisturizing, anti-bacterial mechanism in our ears, and yet everyday, we strip our ears of it.

ear canal diagramWhat is worse, is that by using q-tips, if you are not removing the earwax, you are actually pushing it in, into an area, where it is not able to clean itself. Unlike skin in the rest of the body which is replaced in an upward direction., meaning old cells slowly go up where they eventually end in the top layer and easily removed by friction, the skin in the ear canal goes out by MIGRATION: meaning skin goes from the center of the ear drum, to the edge of the eardrum and then goes out slowly to the ear canal. This skin as well as other debris is mixed with the oil and secretions from glands in the outer 1/3 of the ear canal is what forms the earwax.

When you push the earwax in and it builds up inside the canal, it may be more prone to accumulate fungus, bacteria which may cause ear infections

This can also block your hearing and cause deafness, or it may eve n rupture your eardrum

Another reason why you should not clean your ears is because unlike the skin in the rest of the body which is 5 layers thick, the skin in the inner 2/3 of the ear canal is very very thin and is surrounded by bone. By cleaning your ears with q-tips you may be creating micro-abrasions, as well as releasing histamine which causes itchiness. As a reflex of course, when something is itchy, you scratch it again. By doing that, you are actually creating a viscious “scratch-and-itch” cycle. And that pattern has to stop.

It is best to see your ENT doctor so you can have your ears cleaned by a medical professional.eustachian tube ear diagram

In summary, the earwax is the ear’s self cleaning mechanism. It is a water repellant, a moisturizer, and an anti bacterial agent. And this is what happens when you use q-tips to clean your ears:

1. You make our ear canals dry

2. You push the earwax in

3. You may block your hearing,

4. You may rupture your eardrum,

5. You may cause ear infections, and,

6. You create viscious “scratch-and-itch” cycle in your ear.