The ear is a delicate part of the body and requires special care.
While it is well-intentioned to use a cotton swab to clean the ear, the American Academy of Otolaryngology warns that it may only increase your risk of clogging or rupturing the ear drum.
Cerumen, or earwax as it is commonly referred to, is a normal secretion that protects, lubricates and helps clean the ear through a slow and systematic process that starts from the ear canal and moves towards the opening of the ear, where it falls out in the form of dry flakes.
When a cotton swab is inserted to remove earwax, this generally pushes it further back in the ear canal until it reaches the eardrum and blocks it. If it is inserted too deep, this can perforate the eardrum and in severe cases, lead to facial paralysis or vertigo.
Normally, ear canals never need cleaning, but when there is an excessive accumulation of cerumen, symptoms such as ear pain, clogged ears, partial hearing loss, ringing, itching and coughing may arise that make cleaning the canal necessary.
Commercial ear drops or irrigation treatments available at pharmacies can be used to soften the earwax. Home remedies such as baby oil, glycerin, mineral oil or water at body temperature are also an option. To clean the ear, use a thin cloth or towel in the external part of the ear. Never insert anything in the ear canal.
If you continue to experience discomfort, consult a healthcare provider that can manually remove the earwax with special medical equipment.