Here’s Why We Can’t Stop Sticking Cotton Buds in Our Ears

Originally published on The Debrief at:

We’ve been told not to use cotton buds (or Q-tips) to clean our ears for ages. It’s harmful and damaging, and just generally not very good. It even says on the box ‘Do not insert inside the ear canal.’ Can’t really say the warning’s not clear. So why do we continue to happily shove them in our ears?

Well, it feels good. It’s all about the sensitive nerve endings in our ears, so we just can’t help it. When we put the lovely little bud in our ears, it triggers visceral pleasure. This means our bodies love it; it’s even been referred to as an addiction.

It’s part of the ‘itch-scratch cycle’, which means the more you use them, the more your ears itch, and then because your ears itch more, you want to use them more. A weird ear-cleaning cycle. Does this mean there’s someone out there who just constantly has a cotton bud in their ear?

There’s even a cigarette analogy. I mean this might be a bit much, no one’s found cotton buds give us cancer, but they’re definitely not all sunshine and rainbows. Dennis Fitzgerald, a Washington otolaryngologist, says that the cotton buds can actually push wax in, causing problems with your ear drums. He describes how ‘pushing wax in can induce hearing loss. They can also be inserted too deeply and rupture the ear drum.’ But… but… they feel so good.

This probably means it’s time to put down the cotton buds. So what can be used in it’s place? Apparently oil and hydrogen peroxide routine’ is best, which sounds like a lot of effort to be honest. Ear wax itself actually gets a bad rep, it has antibiotic and antifugal properties, which are very beneficial. Turns out it’s not that gross after all.

But doesn’t everyone use cotton buds to clean they’re ears? It’s what we all assume they’re for, so no wonder it’s so hard to use them for their actual purpose. I’m also not sure what that is by the way, are people building cotton bud houses? If so, I’d definitely be up for getting in on that.


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