Eric Murray "  Think twice before you put that in your ear |

Eric Murray "  Think twice before you put that in your ear

Eric Murray / Voice of Your Hospital
Kremmling, Colorado

Don’t you just love the process of stepping out of a hot shower, drying off and sticking that cotton tipped applicator (more commonly referred to as a Q-tip) in your ear?

For many of us Q-tip addicts, blindly digging around with that little stick and eventually pulling it out with something yellow on it is a rewarding experience.

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, the use of these swabs actually pushes some of the wax deeper into the ear canal causing potential hearing loss and it can trap water or bacteria in the ear.

Efforts to eliminate ear wax habitually can dry out the ear canal, allowing bacteria in and possibly causing infection. Scratching the itch that the dryness creates with a Q-tip is perhaps the reason for the repeat use. What a vicious cycle.

In addition, there is risk of trauma. If you slip or dig a little too deep you can put that little stick right through the thin membrane that is your eardrum. Ouch.

Now you’ll need to have an otolaryngologist (ENT) check it out. It might heal on its own over weeks or even months or it might involve an office procedure involving growth stimulation and patching. If the puncture is large enough it might require surgery involving skin grafting.

Contrary to popular belief ear wax is healthy. It provides a protective coating with antibacterial properties that can repel water and stop dirt from entering too deep into the ear. This can prevent ear infections.

Those who feel their ears need to be cleaned should consider allowing a professional to perform the service once a year with the proper medical equipment including a microscope, miniature instruments and suction.

“If you’ve seen the damage we’ve (otolaryngologists) seen by Q-tips in the ear you would follow my advice on how to clean your ears,” says Dr. Tralla.

“Hydrogen peroxide on a cotton ball will help dissolve the wax or use a few drops in each ear for two days in a row once per month. If your ear is itching it is because it is dry so apply a couple of drops of olive oil.”

Dr. Tralla is an otolaryngologist with 31 years experience. He is trained in the medical and surgical management and treatment of patients with diseases and disorders of the ear, nose and throat (ENT). His main office is in Wheat Ridge. His office in Frisco has been in operation for over 20 years. He is also a visiting specialty physician at Kremmling Memorial Hospital.

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