Dr. Sunil - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Sunil

Are Q-tips Bad For You?

Also Known As: cotton swabs



Short answer

Using Q-tips to clean your ears is asking for trouble. Most do not know exactly how far in the ear drum is, which in most cases is probably closer than you think. Hitting your eardrum with a Q-tip can result in permanent damage.



Long answer

For the purpose of this article, it will be assumed that you are looking at this to find out about the health effects of putting Q-tips into your ears. For other applications, i.e. using Q-tips as intended, they are perfectly safe. 

If you look at a Q-tip box, it will tell you right there that they are not for use inside your ears. Still, many people - if not most - use them to clean the wax or water out of their ears. When applied in this manner, Q-tips are very dangerous. 

First, earwax is naturally produced by the body - and like most things in the body that occur naturally (sorry, appendix), earwax is there for a reason. Earwax not only makes the ear canal waterproof (which prevents water from getting stuck inside your ear in the first place), it is acidic and works as an antibacterial agent, protecting you from various ear infections. Two possible things occur when you use a Q-tip with regard to earwax. The first thing is pulling the earwax out, which allows water to build up and ear infections to take hold. The second scenario involves pushing the earwax deeper towards the eardrum, which can cause problems (including vertigo) and requires more invasive methods to remove. 

The greatest danger of using a Q-tip, however, is going just a little too deep inside the ear canal and hitting the ear drum. If after using a Q-tip you have ever felt slightly off-balance, it is most likely because you have just hit the three tiny bones in your ear - the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. If the Q-tip is close enough to hit those bones, it is close enough to do something even worse - puncture your ear drum. Doing this may result in damage requiring surgery and even cause irreversible total hearing loss. 

Possible short-term side effects

  • vertigo
  • hearing loss
  • wax pushed into deeper part of ear canal

Possible long-term side effects

  • permanent hearing loss

Big are q tips bad for you.

Healthier alternatives

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Written by Jeff Volling | 01-01-2016

Written by Jeff Volling
Suggest improvement or correction

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