The most commonly misused product in the world is the cotton swab (Q-tip). It seems to be a perfect fit for the narrow canal on the sides of our head and we seem to think that the honey colored treasures we seem to “clean” out of our ears is an important maintenance task to keep the ear “clean”. In fact, the brown waxy substance that coats the inside of ear canals is an important protectant of the surface skin cells from the possibility of invading organisms like bacteria and yeast/molds. It is acidic and inhibits the growth of microbes. The use of cotton swabs removes this essential ingredient and abrade the surface cell layer of skin on one of the thinnest and vulnerable areas making way for an outer ear infection. Secondly, the use of q-tips aids in impacting and compacting the ear wax, known as cerumen, into a hardened plug that serves to essentially clog and obstruct our hearing.
If you happen to accumulate more cerumen than others, you may require the occasional visit to an Ear nose and Throat specialist to have the wax removed. There are various ways in which we remove wax from the ears. Depending on the consistency of the wax that may be in a more liquefied form or a more hardened rocklike state, we may use am ear curette
or we may use suction, a form of miniature vacuum cleaning of the wax debris and occasionally will need to irrigate the ear with water or hydrogen peroxide. At home, you may try ear wax removal products like Debrox which can help to soften the wax. Sometimes, you will experience more clogging after the use of these products but it will make it easier to clean them once you come for your ear cleaning in our office. Avoid ear candling, it has been shown not to be an effective way of removing wax from the ears and in some cases may cause the wax to be further deposited in the ear making its clearance harder. Also, bringing fire close to your hair is never a good idea!