[adapted from The Better Hearing Institute]
The bad news: A study by Henry Ford Hospital shows a direct association between cotton swab use and ruptured eardrum.
The good news: The study also shows that, in most cases, the rupture heals on its own and surgery is only necessary for the most severe cases.
More than half of patients seen in otolaryngology clinics, regardless of their primary complaint, admit to using cotton swabs to clean their ears, and if the cotton swab is pushed too far in the ear canal, it can cause tympanic membrane perforations (TMP), which can lead to facial paralysis and vertigo.
A ruptured eardrum can be treated in one of two ways, depending on the severity of the symptoms. The most common method of treatment is observation of the perforation by an otolaryngologist because often the eardrum will heal on its own within 2 months. More severe cases are treated with surgery.
Instead of cotton swabs, patients should use the following alternatives to clean the inner ear:
- Take cool peroxide, hot tap water and mix equally. Be sure it is body temperature and gently irrigate the ear one or two times per month.
- Take plain vinegar and water and use four or five drops in the ear once a week.
- See a doctor, who can remove ear wax for you.
- Try an over-the-counter treatment such as Debrox.