You may have heard this before, but it bears repeating: Avoid using Q-tips inside your ears. For as long as I can remember, my father, a physician, would dry out his ears after his shower with Q-tips. Recently he had to submit to a rather painful extraction of globs of dark, hard wax from both his ears by an ear-nose-throat (ENT) physician.
The doctor found that my father also had an infection in one ear, behind the wax. An infection can be a complication of a wax build-up and can damage the eardrum. Any blockage to the ear canals of course also impedes hearing, and older adults have enough trouble with hearing loss without the addition of something preventable like wax build-up.
Our ears make wax for a reason. It actually helps move dirt and other impurities out of our ears. Sticking things like Q-tips into our ears just pushes old wax in, and doesn’t allow the ear canal to do it’s normal sweeping up.
Just use a towel to dry the outside of your ears and let the rest air dry. As in other parts of our body, like the gut, we have a whole microcosm of microorganisms that, under normal circumstances, help to keep us healthy. They like a certain level of acidity, for example, that can be disturbed by putting things in your ears.
A recent study in JAMA, a top ENT journal, showed how many other Americans don’t listen to the oft-repeated advice to “never put anything into your ears.” Medicare spent over $46 million to “disimpact” wax or cerumen from the ears of 1.3 million people in 2012, the year the study examined data on the topic.
Here’s more from Just Care:
- Can you hear me now? Hearing loss common for older adults
- Three things to do to address hearing loss as you get older
- How to prepare for a visit to the audiologist
- Get the preventive care you need, Medicare pays for it
- Free and low cost health care programs