It's not an urban legend — Q-tips really can do serious harm to your ears.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, Q-tips are responsible for sending dozens of children to the ER every single day.
The study, which looked at data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System between 1990 to 2010, found that during that 20-year span 263,338 American kids under the age of 18 were sent to the emergency room for ear injuries related to Q-tips. That's roughly 36 kids a day.
Of the kids treated for ear injuries, 25 per cent had ruptured ear drums, which can result in hearing loss. According to the Mayo Clinic, a ruptured ear drum can be extremely painful and can take weeks to heal on its own. Occasionally, however, surgery is required to repair a ruptured ear drum.
And that's not the only danger — Dr. Ron Lemckert, otolaryngologist and medical director of Cutis Cosmetic & Laser Centre, says, "Cotton fibres [from Q-tips] often get mixed in with the wax, forming a sticky obstructing plug that is more difficult to remove."
So what should you do if you (or your child) feel your ears getting clogged? Leave them alone!
“The purpose of ear wax really is to keep your ear canal clean,” says Dr. Douglas Backous, chair of the hearing committee of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNSF) and director of hearing and skull base surgery at Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle.
Using cotton swabs to "clean" the ears actually only pushes the wax in further, making hearing slightly more difficult. So if it's really bothering you contact your doctor or an ENT (ear nose throat) specialist who can prescribe ear drops, which can soften and expel excess ear wax.