Stop Poking Your Ears

There is so much information on the internet on the do’s and don’ts of cleaning your ears. Some sources suggest not to use cotton ear buds to clean your ear while others say cotton buds are okay to use as long as they aren’t inserted too deep into the ear.

So which side of the argument actually holds merit?

Using earbuds, or Q-tips to clean the ear is an extremely common practice. ‘Do not use earbuds/Q-tips to clean your ears’ is advice that is often ignored by all despite knowing that it could harm the ears. You may feel that you are cleaning your ears by using earbuds, but what you may be doing is pushing the earwax further deep into your ear canal.

To justify why not to use earbuds to clean the ears, we need to understand the purpose of earwax in the ears. Ear wax, scientifically known as Cerumen is wax with dead skin from the outer half of the ear. It is of two types – wet and dry – and is genetically determined. Similar to nasal hair, ear wax is an unappreciated part of the human body whose primary function is to protect the inner ear. Ear wax is necessary for the ear because it prevents the dirt and germs from entering the inner, sensitive part of the ear. In this manner, the sensitive ear canal is safe from irritation and infection. Ear wax also acts as a moisturizer for the ear and helps keep it from becoming dry.

There is no need to use ear buds to clean the ears as our ears are self-cleaning. Every time we move our jaw, the ear wax is moved to outside the ear and it eventually dries up or flakes off. Inserting anything into the ear, including your finger or cotton swabs puts you at the risk of developing irritation in the ear as there are chances that you may push the ear wax further deep into the ear canal.

Using an ear bud can increase your chances of damaging your ear in the following ways;


  • The lining of the ear canal is very delicate and can be easily damaged by rubbing anything against it too harshly or in the wrong manner. Inserting an ear bud too deep into the ear can rupture the ear drum which can further cause hearing loss.
  • Using earbuds or Q-tips makes the ear more susceptible to bacterial and fungal infection.
  • When using ear buds, you may see some amount of brown color on it which means that some ear wax has been removed, but the rest of it could have been pushed into the ear which causes the ear to be itchy.


If not for earbuds, what are some of the steps that we can take to ensure that our ears are clean?

Actually, you don’t need to clean your ears too often because they have the ability to clean on their own, just use a wet cloth and clean the outside and backside of your ears, and your earwax handle the rest.

For those who tend to develop too much ear wax and those who seem to have an irritation caused by excess ear wax, a regular visit to the ENT is recommended. However, you do not need to completely get rid of your ear buds, they come handy in cleaning the outer part of your ear and as the saying goes, ‘don’t put anything smaller than your elbow into your ears.



Dr. Archana Arya

ENT Specialist

Aster Clinic, Al Barsha




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.