A study by Ilaaf Darrat and Michael Seidman of Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, shows a direct association between cotton swab (cotton buds) use and ruptured eardrum.
The study was presented April 29 at the Combined Otolaryngology Spring Meeting in Chicago.
More than half of patients seen in otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) clinics, regardless of their primary complaint, admit to using cotton swabs to clean their ears.
But if the cotton swab is pushed too far in the ear canal, it can cause serious damage, including ruptured eardrum, also known as tympanic membrane perforations (TMP).
Since the ear canal is curved -- and a cotton swab is not – overenthusiastic cleaning may result in the cotton swab being pushed too far in the ear canal, where it can cause serious damage, including ruptured eardrum, also known as tympanic membrane perforations (TMP).
Severe TMP can cause facial paralysis and vertigo.
"If a patient is experiencing symptoms such as hearing loss, drainage, dizziness or abnormality in their facial movements they should see a doctor immediately to assess the possible ear damage," says Dr. Darrat.
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 times the eardrum will heal on its own within two months. More severe cases are treated with surgery.
While the study found that most cases or ruptured eardrum heal on their own, neurological deficits, such as facial nerve paralysis, require surgical intervention to repair the eardrum.
Her colleague Dr. Seidman recommends instead of cotton swabs, using these 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* (carbamide peroxide 6.5%).
* A popular alternative is SOLUWAX containing docusate sodium which has been found to be a very effective agent for solubilising ear wax.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist TODAY!