Don’t put things in your eyes, nose or ears. I remember that sentiment being repeated time and time again while growing up, and it makes perfect sense. But for some reason, as adults we see no problem with putting a cotton swab deep into our ear in an effort to “clean” our ears.
While I don’t want to rain on your parade, the top audiologist in Manchester, New Hampshire has confirmed that placing anything in your ear, including cotton swabs, is dangerous. In fact, this is the most common cause of a perforated eardrum.
What Role does the Eardrum Play?
Your eardrum is the thin membrane that separates your middle ear from your outer ear. Its primary role is to convert the sound waves that enter the ear into vibrations, making it a vital part of the hearing process. In addition to aiding in the hearing process, your eardrum is responsible for preventing water, bacteria and pieces of debris from entering your middle ear, which can lead to infections.
Perforated Eardrum Symptoms
Placing a cotton swab in your ear can create just enough pressure to rupture your eardrum. Yes, even if you place it in your ear very carefully. A ruptured eardrum can cause a sharp pain in the ear, drainage from the ear (either clear or bloody), buzzing sounds and even hearing loss.
If you experience these symptoms, you may have torn a hole in your eardrum. You should visit the best audiologist in Manchester as soon as possible. Once there, your audiologist will look in your ear with an otoscope, a lighted instrument, for visible signs of damage. A hearing evaluation will also be performed in order to confirm if your perforated eardrum has caused any hearing loss.
Does this seem like an excessive amount of damage to be caused by such an understated cotton swab? The good news is that most of these symptoms are temporary.
Perforated Eardrum Treatment
A perforated eardrum typically heals on its own and does not require treatment. To prevent an infection, you are usually prescribed antibiotics; over-the-counter medication may be suggested to manage the pain. In the off chance your eardrum does not heal on its own, or the hole is too large, surgery may be needed. This simple outpatient surgery repairs the hole with a piece of your own tissue.
Now that you know the potential consequences of using a cotton swab, what are you going to do next time you step out of the shower? Anything you want, except clean out your ear with a cotton swab. The shower you just took does a fine job on its own washing out any debris or earwax that was trapped in your ear.