Who doesn’t enjoy sticking a cotton bud in their ear? To twist gently, pull it out and examine the white tip turned to yellow. People use buds to clean not only ears but toilet cisterns and pistols. Which is just as well, as guidelines released last week by the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, state that cotton buds should not be used for cleaning ears.
Buds don’t remove wax so much as push it down the ear canal so that it impacts on the ear drum. And there is no need to remove wax anyway – it protects our ears from infection and damage, has antibacterial properties, and traps dust and dirt in the ear canal, thereby stopping it from reaching the more delicate eardrum.
This self-cleansing includes a conveyor belt mechanism by which old wax is shunted out of the ear canal to the opening of the ear by the movement of the jaw through eating or talking. The old, dry wax flakes off or gets washed off in the shower. Wax is made in the outer third of the ear canal, so when it is seen piled up against the eardrum it is often because we have shoved it down there ourselves. The bottom line is that most ears do not need to be cleaned, except on the outside.