Hands up who can resist the lure of cleaning your ear out with a cotton bud when you feel that nasty old wax build-up? Yeah, we can’t manage it either!


Well, while you may think that it’s a harmless habit, researchers from the US claim otherwise – and they have the statistics to back it up.


A team of researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital recently analysed data from Emergency Room records, and discovered that every year in the US, 12,500 children under the age of 18 are treated for ear injuries related to cotton buds.


According to the research report, published in the Journal of Paediatrics, 99 per cent of the ER patients ended up being treated for their injuries. Alarmingly, in some cases, the patients ended up with permanent hearing damage.


The danger, of course, is that the cotton bud will be pushed too far into the ear canal where it will cause damage.


For those of you worried about the potential hygiene implications of ditching the cotton bud, what’s the alternative? Well, according to the study authors, we should really be leaving well alone. Yep, you heard us.



Lead author of the study, Dr Kris Jatana, explained: “The ear canal is self-cleaning, and the cotton-tipped applicator actually works against your ear’s natural cleaning mechanism by pushing the earwax deeper toward the eardrum, where it essentially gets trapped and can’t get out on its own.”


“This is not like brushing your teeth every day,” he added. “Children and adults do not need to clean out the ear canal of wax as part of a routine hygiene practice.”


This study comes months after US medics issued a similar warning regarding ear cleaning.


The American Academy of Otolaryngology warned people against using cotton buds, for fear of either scratching the ear canal or interrupting the natural breakdown process for wax.


Organisation chair Seth Schwartz spoke out against not only cotton buds but also ear candles and other sharp objects.


“The problem is that this effort to eliminate earwax is only creating further issues, because the earwax is just getting pushed down and impacted further into the ear canal,” he said.


So there you have it, mums – leave well alone when it comes to your own ears and those of your little ones!