Ear wax, medically known as cerumen, is a healthy feature of your ears and acts as a self-cleaning agent. It has protective, lubricating and anti-bacterial characteristics. It migrates from the ear drum to the ear opening, cleaning the ear canal, and then drying and falling out. This is a self-regulating process and in normal circumstances, there is no need to interfere. If there is an absence of ear wax, the ears become dry and itchy.
One of the biggest mysteries of the human body is actually this: your ears clean themselves! When the earwax dries, every movement of your jaw, whether while you eat or talk, helps in the elimination of the earwax outside the ear canal.
Ear wax protects the eardrum of dirt and damage, and ensures strong antibacterial protection. It serves as a lubricant required for proper function of the eardrum. So, as you can see, cleaning your ears with a cotton swab is not such a good idea!
What happens when you use cotton swabs to clean your ears?
When you use cotton swabs, you are actually pushing the wax deeper into your ear, and into the area where it shouldn’t be. It can get stuck and blocked against the ear drum, which can cause all sorts of complications.
Fungus, bacteria and viruses from the outer ear get pushed into the ear and can cause infections, which are extremely painful. Second, if the wax is jammed deep inside the ear canal, it can cause hearing loss. If it gets shoved even further, it can damage the ear drum and result in a rupture.
Should the ears be cleaned at all?
Ideally, your ears should never be cleaned. By cleaning the inside of the ear you are only creating a vicious cycle. Dr. Douglas Backous, M.D., chair of the AAO-HNSF and director of hearing and skull base surgery at Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle, explains that when you constantly rub the skin of your ears, a lot of histamine gets releases. This makes the skin irritated and inflamed. And the more you scratch, the more it itches.
Other Benefits of Earwax
The right amount of ear wax aids in keeping dust, germs and bacteria from entering your ears and damaging them. It also traps dirt and slows down the growth of bacteria. Lastly, it protects the skin of your ear canal from irritation caused by water.
Now, since cleaning your ears with cotton swab is not advisable, doctors suggest that if you need your ears cleaned, seek help from a medical professional.