Q-Tips & Ear Care

Q-tips look so innocuous…

A white cardboard lollipop-like stick with cotton on each end. How can they possibly be dangerous for your hearing?

Believe it or not, earwax, medically known as cerumen, is not dirt. It functions as a lubricant and barrier to dust or dirt entering the ear canal, away from the eardrum. Our ears essentially clean themselves. Once the moist earwax dries, with every movement of our jaws, such as talking, chewing, and snoring, the dried earwax works itself up to the surface. It’s safer to remove the wax when it reaches the outer surface, but not necessarily with a q-tip. With the use of q-tips, although they seem small enough, they actually push earwax from the outer ear down into the ear canal. With the wax, dirt, dust, bacteria, fungus, and viruses are pushed into parts of the canal that are not self-cleaning. This can cause inner ear infections and impacted earwax. Also, the eardrum can be punctured if the q-tip is pushed too far into the ear canal or used too aggressively. Hearing loss can result from pushing wax too deeply into the canal causing a blockage. In essence, earwax serves an extremely important function for the betterment of our health and wellness. 

So after you’ve tried bending your head to the side with no success, CNC Hearing and Balance Center’s Sarah McGuire, NP, APRN, has a few tips to help.

  • Dry your ear after swimming with a hairdryer set on low heat and speed.
  • Qtips are NOT an option. Never stick anything into your ear canal. The risk of perforation is too great. It is simply not worth the risk. Not only is there a chance of putting a hole in your eardrum, the skin that lines the ear canal can be scratched and increase the chance of developing an infection.
  • Alcohol-based products are available over-the-counter, but be cautious about using them. If there is a hole in eardrum some home remedies can do damage.
  • Ear plugs are an option but they are not 100 percent effective in blocking moisture unless custom-made. Our audiologists can custom-fit ear plugs for frequent swimmers.
  • If the ear is painful or starts draining fluid, it needs medical attention.

At the CNC Hearing and Balance Center you will receive complete hearing care from highly trained physicians, nurse practitioners and audiologists. Call us today for more information or to make an appointment in Marrero, Uptown or Mandeville at (504) 934-8320.

There is no other coordinated multidisciplinary team in the New Orleans and Northshore area as deeply qualified to address hearing and balance issues as CNC Hearing and Balance Center.