healthHealth and Medicine

Science Says You Should Really Stop Sticking Things Into Your Ears


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

You should probably stop fiddling around with your pet's ears too, come to think of it. fongleon356/Shutterstock

Are you one of those people that sticks things into their ear to relieve an itch or to remove some earwax? Well, if you are one of these Q-tipping people on a quest to achieve an eargasm, medical experts have some bad news for you.

As reported by Popular Science, the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO) – that’s the ear, nose, and throat – has released its latest set of guidelines for both doctors dealing with otolaryngological problems in patients and for patients themselves. The take away message to both is this: Please stop sticking things in your ears.


This includes, apparently, “anything smaller than your elbow” – although we aren’t sure how anything larger than your elbow would fit into your ear canals. Either way, whether it is a tangerine or a toothbrush, keep it out of your hearing holes.

Yes, earwax can get annoying, and maybe it is a little satisfying pulling out a hairy clump of unwanted aural resin. The problem is that most people stick their Q-tips in too far and end up damaging or even perforating their tympanic membrane, which is essentially your eardrum.

This, clearly, is not a good thing. In fact, it’s acutely painful. Even just pushing a microbe-covered, fiber-shedding probe into the opening of the ear canal can cause perforations that become infected.

The thing is, earwax isn’t a bad thing. It can feel like it’s getting in the way, like phlegm emerging from your nostrils, but it exists for a reason – to trap particulate matter, dust, and microbes from getting in. In fact, probing around in your earholes with a Q-tip tends to push older wax back in and prevents new wax from pushing the older stuff out.


Professional ear pokery. BuzzFeedBlue via YouTube

Some people at this point may raise their hand and defiantly claim that they clean out their earwax using non-invasive methods like candling. For the uninitiated, candling is when you use a lit, hollow candle attached to your ear canal to draw out the wax from within.

It’s never really been shown to work in the past, but now the AAO have finally added it to their naughty list. At best, it can get candle wax inside your ear. At worst, it can set your ear on fire.

If you really want to clean your ears of some wax, wash the very outside of the canal with some hot water during a shower. Don’t jam an instrument in there unless you want to risk going deaf.


Earwax can become a problem if it builds up too much, but if you think this is the case, then go see a physician. They’ll have professional poking instrumentation, don’t you worry.

[H/T: Popular Science]


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