Ear Wax Cerumen

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Tips for Treating Ear Infections

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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

REFERENCE:

American Academy of Otolaryngology. Ear Wax.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/2/2015

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