Hearing aid user? Use cotton buds to clean your ears? Then you should read this (via the Independent)

Posted on February 3, 2016

If you still use cotton buds to clean your ears (and many hearing aid wearers do!) then it might be time to read this article. Or look away and carry on using them regardless… as most people do!

The article, published in the Independent, explains how cotton buds are usually bought for cleaning ears, even though manufacturers warn against people doing using them for this purpose.

Later on in the article, it’s explained how a vicious circle can result, of the cotton buds being used to alleviate itching, while actually causing more itching and irritation in the ear!


Years ago, my mother complained about a terrible earache. The pain was unbearable, and it wouldn’t go away. For a week, she walked around with a debilitating ringing in her head. Eventually, she recalled to me the other day, the discomfort led her to a doctor, who carefully pushed an otoscope into her ear. Within seconds, he pulled it out and looked her in the face.

“Have you been putting Q-tips in your ears?” he asked with a disapproving tone.

Familiar in Britain, “Q-tips” is the name of the proprietary brand of cotton-swab, or bud, in America. And like so many others, my mother had been using them to clean her ears. But in doing so she was also messing with a natural process. Her ear was hurting because she had an ear infection, and there’s a decent chance her routinely using cotton buds had helped to cause it.

“Promise me something,” the doctor told her. “Promise me you’ll never put another Q-tip inside of your ear.”

Cotton buds are one of the most perplexing things for sale in the West. Plenty of consumer products are widely used in ways other than their core function – books for levelling tables, newspapers for keeping fires aflame, soda water for removing stains, coffee tables for resting legs – but these swabs are distinct. They are one of the only, if not the only, major consumer products whose main purpose is precisely the one that the manufacturers explicitly warn against.

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