The ubiquitous Q-tip. What houshold doesn’t have at least one box of those paper sticks with soft cotton tips on both ends? They’re good for so many things around the house. For example, I use them to clean between the keys on my laptop’s keyboard.
But did you know that there is one common use that Q-tips should never be used for? That’s right. You shouldn’t use Q-tips to clean the wax out of your ears.
I bet you do, though. So do I. In fact, ever since I can remember, I’ve used Q-tips to clean my ears. I’m pretty sure that even before I was able to clean my own ears, my mother used Q-tips on my little baby ears. After all, way back then the Q-tips box even suggested the swabs should be used “for the eyes, nostrils, ears, gums, and many other uses.”
But then, in the 1970s, something changed. A warning against sticking Q-tips in one’s ears started appearing on the Q-tips packaging.
Not that anyone paid much attention to that warning, which is in very fine print on an undisclosed location on the box.
Contemporary ear care hygiene tells us that Q-tips can be damaging to the ear. According to an article in Business Insider last year, “Instead of taking out the earwax, the Q-tip is good at pushing it farther into the ear canal closer to the eardrum.” After a while, all that earwax pushes against the eardrum, making it harder to vibrate. And that can cause hearing loss.
Not a bad thing
Despite its gross appearance, earwax serves some good purposes. For example, it can prevent insects from finding their way into your brain, which is, I think, a positive thing. It’s also antibacterial and anti-fungal and can trap dirt and dust so it stays on the outside of your head. And earwax isn’t an indicator that you have nasty, dirty ears, even though that might be a widely held perception. So cultivating your ugly, cruddy earwax is apparently not a bad thing.
Of course, knowing all this will not cause me to change my daily grooming routine, which includes inserting a Q-tip deep into each ear and digging out as much of that yucky, spicy brown mustard-colored gunk as I can.
Hmm. Perhaps that explains why, after decades of using Q-tips in my ears, I suffer from tinnitus and have become a little hard of hearing. But, hell, what a small price to pay for sparkling clean, waxless ear canals.
Am I right, or what?