Enough Is Enough — Here's Why You Need To Stop Using Q-Tips To Clean Your Ears

    "People have a hard time believing this, but most people should do nothing special to clean their ears."

    Ever since I saw that episode of Girls where Hannah punctured her eardrum with a Q-tip, I vowed to never use the cursed device to clean my ears again — no matter how waxy they became.

    Hannah screaming while sticking a Q-tip in her ear

    My friends, on the other hand, are all avid Q-tip users. And I'm gonna guess a lot of you who are reading this are too. I know most people have the sense to not go eardrum-deep with those babies, but have you ever asked a doctor if you should really be excavating anything from your ears at all?

    That's where Emily J Taylor, AuD., FAAA comes into the picture to help us out. She's a doctor of Audiology based in Baltimore, Maryland, and she just so happens to make a lot of informative TikToks about ear health.

    In a video that now has over 26 million views on the platform, she uses a model of an ear, peanut butter, and a Q-tip to demonstrate why you shouldn't use the cotton buds to remove wax.

    "Generally speaking, Q-tips tend to push wax deeper down the ear canal toward the eardrum," Dr. Taylor told BuzzFeed. "This makes the wax more difficult to remove in the office because of the close proximity to the eardrum, which is extremely sensitive. The fibers from the Q-tip can also get left behind in the ear and require a professional to remove the blockage."

    The diagram of the Q-Tip pushing the wax deeper into the ear

    "I see patients more often than I would like with a wax impaction pushed all the way down their ear canal from a Q-tip," Dr. Taylor said. "Luckily for us, we have an awesome new machine in the office, which helps comfortably remove wax with body temperature water. I would say more often than not, a patient comes in and reports they are regularly using Q-tips."

    A guy sticking a Q-tip in his ear

    When asked how Q-tip usage became so widespread, Dr. Taylor said, "Probably because Q-tips are an item typically kept in the bathroom, so they seem like the perfectly sized object to stick in the ear canal to remove moisture and wax. If you read the Q-tip box, it specifically says not to use it in the ear canal."

    A warning on the Q-tip package to not stick

    Chances are you're probably still wondering what to do about cleaning your ears if Q-tips are off the table. But you might not like Dr. Taylor's answer to that question. "People have a hard time believing this, but most people should do nothing special to clean their ears," she said. "The ear canal in most cases self-cleans. The skin in the ear canal migrates outward slowly over time, pushing debris toward the outer edge of the canal, where it can more easily fall out. Also, people need to keep in mind, the body produces wax for a reason! It prevents foreign bodies from getting in toward the eardrum, prevents infections, and it lubricates the canal, which prevents the ear canal from becoming dry and itchy."

    Ear wax in someone's ear

    "Of course, some people truly overproduce wax and will need to be seen by a professional, such as an audiologist or ear, nose, and throat physician, for safe and effective removal. Another huge no-no is using ear candles! They are a total hoax," she exclaimed.

    A woman with a candle in her ear, captioned "NO"

    The moral of the story here? Stop prodding your ears, and leave it to the professionals if you have an exceptional amount of wax. Case closed.