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Is it OK to use Q-tips?
Most attempts to clean the ears by using cotton swabs only result in pushing the wax further into the ear canal. Wax is not formed in the deep part of the ear canal near the eardrum, but only in the outer part of the canal near the external opening. So when a doctor sees that a person has wax pushed up against the eardrum, he or she knows that it is often because the individual has been probing his or her ear with such things as Q-Tips, bobby pins or twisted napkin corners. Such objects only serve as ramrods to push the wax deeper into the ear and can lead to problems.
The skin of the ear canal and the eardrum is very thin and fragile, and is easily injured. The ear canal is more prone to infection after it has been stripped clean of the "good," coating-type wax. Doctors see many perforated eardrums as a result of the above efforts.
Medically reviewed by Peter O’Connor, MD; American Board of Otolaryngology with subspecialty in Sleep Medicine
American Academy of Otolaryngology. Ear Wax.