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9 Slightly Disturbing Facts That Will Stop You From Cleaning Your Ears Ever Again

Put down those Q-tips, people.

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Having a good ear scrub with a Q-tip is the closest thing you can get to an orgasm without taking off your clothes.

1. First of all, you're introducing all kinds of disgusting bacteria into your ears when you "clean" them.

Dr Adam Roberts, a senior lecturer in molecular microbiology at UCL, told BuzzFeed that the ear has its own ecology and mixed bacterial population which, if interfered with, can cause potential infections.

"If the bacteria balance is changed either by changing the environment or sticking something in it, then you could introduce new species of potentially pathogenic bacteria or cause an injury to the inner part of the ear which could result in an infection," he said.

2. Cotton buds and the like can cause ear infections.

Sticking shit in your ear to "clean it out" is a fast-track way to aggro central.

One study looked at 87 kids who were suffering from otitis externa, aka "swimmer's ear" – an inflammatory ear infection that can hamper hearing and is mightily uncomfortable. It found that 70% of sufferers had cleaned their ears out with cotton buds in the week leading up to infection. And a third of those had used Q-tips every day.

And it's not just something that affects kids. Another report which looked at adults in Nigeria found that "self-ear cleaning with indiscriminate objects" was the root cause of ear problems. God only knows what counts as an ~indiscriminate object~.


3. And some earwax is actually important, nay, ESSENTIAL.

Your ears clean themselves like a supremely effective conveyor belt, and earwax is basically like the WD-40 oil that keeps the belt running smoothly, getting out all the crap that's gathered in your ear. Cleaning them out with Q-tips, pencils, and toothpicks just fucks it all up for NO GOOD REASON and can even push wax farther down the ear canal.

4. Without it, your ear would shrivel and probably die.

Wax has antibacterial properties and is your body's equivalent of Vaseline. It moisturizes your ear and stops it from becoming cracked, dry, and full of shit.

It's so moisturizing in fact that during the Victorian era, people recommended using earwax as a kind of lip salve. 😷

5. Cleaning your ears can cause you to fall over.

Discovery Channel /

OK, maybe not, but messing with your ears can actually fuck up your balance. Germany's largest university ear, head, and neck clinic conducted a study on almost 200 patients suffering from trauma-induced tinnitus (the ringing you hear after concerts) and vertigo (when you have zero balance). The most severe perforations were caused by explosions and the use of COTTON BUDS.

6. Ear candles can burn and deafen you.

Ear candles are hollow cloth cones dipped in paraffin or beeswax, placed in the ear, and set alight. Is it that surprising that something that sounds so bloody dangerous and ridiculous is actually DANGEROUS AND RIDICULOUS?!

Even the FDA has said it has ~concerns~ about the safety issues surrounding lit pieces of highly flammable cloth being burned on top of people's faces. There have been no actual scientific studies to prove the effectiveness of ear candles, but there have been plenty of reports of facial burnings, perforated eardrums, and blocked ears.


7. Messing with your wax can lead to aural discharge.


Sticking objects into your ears – be that a Q-tip, a screwdriver, or headphones – can create a wax blockage. Wax is supposed to remove itself naturally, but when you block its exit (as you do when you're constantly plugged in to an iPod), it starts to build up like a wall. Twelve million people a year are admitted to hospital in the US with impacted wax, with 8 million going on to have removal surgery. And this goes on to cause all kinds of dreadful problems like deafness, tinnitus, odor, and ~discharge~. 😱

8. Cotton buds can get stuck in your ears without you even realising.

It's not uncommon for Q-tip ends to get stuck in your ear. Sometimes it happens without people even realising. Imagine the amount of shit that festers on a rogue piece of cotton when it gets trapped for weeks on end in there. Truly, this is the stuff of nightmares.

9. But there are way safer ways to unclog your ears.

There are over-the-counter ear drops you can try to soften or dislodge excess wax, and some experts even recommend using olive oil (but check with a doctor before trying it yourself!). And if you know there's probably lots of shit backed up in there, make an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist to get your ears extracted. It's typically a quick and easy procedure where they suck any wax blockages out. Check out this video of people who actually did it.

Remember that just because Buddha did it, doesn't mean you should too.