Why you shouldn't use Q-Tips to clean out earwax -- and what you should do instead

Though it might be tempting to swab inside your ears with a Q-Tip, don’t.

Put down the cotton swab and step back: It’s likely doing more harm than good.

In fact, William H. Shapiro, an audiologist and a clinical associate professor from NYU Langone, told Business Insider in March, “Don’t put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow.”

Here’s why: Instead of taking out the earwax, the Q-Tip is good at pushing it farther into the ear canal toward the ear drum.

Earwax pushing in

Not good.

After a while, that earwax makes it hard for the ear drum to vibrate, which can lead to hearing loss, Shapiro explained.

Ear drum problem

Why we have earwax

Despite its gross appearance, earwax is really only there to help. It can, for example keep insects out of our ears.

It also acts as an antibacterial and antifungal, fighting off infections in and around our ears. It can also trap dust, hairs, and push dead skin cells outside the body, helping things run smoothly on the inside.

“It’s not a bad thing to have wax, it’s not like you have a dirty ear,” Shapiro said.

What you can do instead

Dr. Erich Voigt, an otologist at New York University, told Business Insider that he recommends washing your ears with soap and water, and then take your finger in a towel and mop out all the excess water, and along with it any wax that might be on the outside of your ear.

That way, you can avoid some of the harrowing situations Voigt has experienced, including removing a “small brown crayon amount of wax from someone’s ear.”

NOW WATCH: Using Q-tips to clean your ears can do more harm than good

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