Grandparents have told us for decades not to stick anything smaller than your elbow into our ears. Ear specialists in the USA, the American Academy of Otolaryngology, agree. They say that cleaning your ears with cotton buds (aka Q-tips) can cause long-lasting damage to your ears and hearing. Dr Jennifer Caudle said cotton buds seem harmless but can cause damage. She said: "People want to stick things in their ears and they think it’s the right thing to do, but [cotton buds] can cause holes in the eardrum, irritation in the canal, and can [make it easier to get] infections."
The Academy recommended that people think of earwax as an essential substance to keep our ears healthy. Dr Seth Schwartz said: "People…want to clean their ears because they believe earwax is an indication of uncleanliness. This misinformation leads to unsafe ear health habits." Our body produces earwax to do the essential job of cleaning the ears, stopping them from drying out, and helping them to sweat naturally. It also protects the ears against bacteria, bugs and dust. Cotton buds can push earwax further inside the ear and cause blockages.