5 Reasons NOT to Use Cotton buds in the Ears

//5 Reasons NOT to Use Cotton buds in the Ears

5 Reasons NOT to Use Cotton buds in the Ears


An article by Dr Jay Jindal Au.d. FSHAA, Consultant Audiologist

The skin inside the ear moves from inside out at a rate of 1-2 mm per day. This conveyer belt mechanism works for you to clean the stuff from the ear canal. If this process is not working properly, the earwax and dead skin from the ear canal, start clogging the ear and cause various symptoms such as itching, irritation, tinnitus (ringing/buzzing in the ears), hearing loss and sometimes infections.


Some people try to clean the earwax with earbuds, which can be more harmful than not. Here are a few reasons why it is not a great idea:


In the 30 years leading to 2010, more than 260,000 children visited US emergency department due to injuries related to use of cotton buds. Around 55% of them had either a hole in the eardrum or foreign body sensation.


Here’s a more dramatic illustration of how cotton buds can not only be harmful for ear but also, damage your brains. Here’s a young 31 year old man who used cotton bud in his ear that got stuck inside without his knowledge, causing serious damage in the bones around the ear. Of course the ear is only separated from the brain by a very thin bone and the infection reached the part of the brain just above the ear

A bit of cotton left in the ear may sound harmless, but in this case, it wreaked havoc.


There are numerous personal examples that I have from my own clinic, where earbuds have done more damage than good. In fact, the boxes of earbuds do come with a warning NOT to use them in the ears. It just need to be fortified I guess.

Therefore, the above means that you should not put anything in the ear- nothing smaller than your elbow-goes the old adage!. Yes, this includes hairpins, tweezers, straws, paper clips, pen, pencils and every other inanimate object that you use to clean your ears. I do hope you have not seen the disgusting video of a London official cleaning the ear with their glasses and then licking it https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9020843/Disturbing-moment-Sadiq-Khans-Labour-deputy-mayor-appears-eat-EAR-WAX.html I should soon write another post on why you shouldn’t eat your earwax.


  1. Firstly, if you need to itch just itch the ear from outside. Again, don’t put anything inside the ear.
  2. Seek professional help- it will be better, safer and cheaper option. There are tons of reasons why ears become waxy/itchy. So, visit someone who knows what they are doing and can treat your specific problem. GP, ENT, Nurse or audiologists- they are available near you so, just make that visit.
  3. You can use earwax softener: It appears that normal olive oil (NOT extra virgin variety), and 5% sodium bicarbonate ear drops are two products with no known side effects with short-term use. However, every feeling of blockage is not due to ear wax. We see people in our clinic with acute medical issues that are deemed due to earwax but need urgent help. Take advice.
  4. Ear drops can sometime cause a few problems e.g. olive oil can cause issues if you have skin conditions such as allergy, dry skin and/or Psoriasis. General contraindications of this sort of wax treatment include (but NOT limited to)-perforated eardrum, inflammation, recent ear surgery, injury or infection, and mastoid cavity. Also, how effectively you can get the drops into the wax in the ear, is also a factor in their effectiveness
  5. Visit an ear care professional for wax removal: There are various different techniques that can be used to remove earwax depending on your issue. Earwax removal is safe and effective for children and adults. When it is done right, there is no pain involved.

Ear wax removal by microsuction for children and adults

Ear wax removal by microsuction for children and adults

Shown above is my then three-year-old having a chunk of earwax removed in our clinic after he spent a week using ‘pardon’ far more often for my liking. He was actually a very good patient and enjoyed the experience (I guess that’s because he didn’t have to struggle to hear anymore and also because he loved to be the center of attraction of my colleagues. Such an attention seeker even at this age!).

By the way, we get a lot of enquiries on it so, it is worth mentioning that there is no evidence Hopi Ear Candles work for wax removal. There are numerous safety warnings against their use as wax candling can go wrong. UK Ear Specialists advise against the use of Hopi Candles and FDA is warning people not to use them because they can cause serious injury.  Ear candles are promoted and sold in health food stores, health spas and salons, flea markets and on the Internet. In our experience, the wax you see after the candle treatment is actually the wax from candles themselves rather than wax coming out from your ears. Check this FDA warning in this youtube video

If you feel you or a family member may have earwax issues that need to be looked at, please contact us today for an appointment at one of our centers in London, Orpington, Sevenoaks, or Tunbridge Wells

W: www.audiologyplanet.com

E: info@audiologyplanet.com

P: (0044) 0330 2233 453; 07543664692

By |2020-12-08T15:39:51+00:00December 6th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

About the Author:

Jay Jindal is a highly qualified independent audiologist, specialising in hearing care for both children and adults, auditory processing disorders, balance & dizziness and tinnitus management. He is also an expert in loud music or noise related hearing issues and has written several articles on how to protect hearing from loud music. His clinics are in London, Surrey, and Kent (Orpington, Sevenoaks, and Royal Tunbridge Wells) Jay is also professional development consultant and speaks on various audiology related topics at national and international events. He regulalrly organises world class paediatric and adult audiology events with speakers from all over the world via www.audiologyplanet.com Jay has worked at most of the speciality and super-speciality hospitals in London including, Guy’s and St Thomas’, Great Ormond Street, Royal National, Charing Cross and St George’s Hospital; and Harley Street, London Bridge and the Wellington Hospitals. As a recognition of his audiological expertise, he was awarded ‘audiologist of the year’ by an independent charity called Kent Deaf Children’s Society in 2013. Jay has worked with several national audiology professional bodies, which has an influence on how the hearing healthcare services are provided in United Kingdom. He is a member of regulatory body’s (Health and Care Professional Council) fitness-to-practice panel formulated to investigate the malpractices of hearing aid audiologists. Jay has many research publications to his credit, which are published in peer reviewed international journals. He is often invited to speak in national and international audiology events

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