Do Doctors Clean Their Ears with Cotton Swabs?

Due to the sensitive nerve endings in our ears, most of us have experienced the satisfying and tingling feeling of swabbing out our earwax with a Q-tip. However, it is widely known doctor advice that you should not use cotton swabs to clean your ears due to the risk of accidentally damaging the inside of the ear canal or perforating the eardrum.

In an attempt to avoid using ear swabs, many have come up with alternative ways to clean their ears such as covering your finger with a tissue, squirting hydrogen peroxide or  oil into your ear, or using a special water tool. However, many say to not clean out the earwax at all, as it protects and lubricates the ear canal.

We wanted to know if doctors follow their own advice about leaving earwax alone. So we asked, do you remove your earwax or leave it alone? The results were:


“When you use a stethoscope hundreds of times a day, the wax gets pushed back and at some point becomes obstruction. Then a water method with oil/peroxide prep works well in dislodging that little brick. I do this about 1-2 times a year!” – Anesthesiologist

“Hydrogen peroxide soaks once and while. Otherwise the cerumen becomes a hard concretion like dried rat poop and affects hearing.” – Radiology

“I use my finger. When I go to a national medical meeting, I let water in the shower go in my ear every day for a long time, maybe 3-5 minutes each ear. I don’t do this much at home because it uses a lot of hot water standing under the shower. If reimbursement would not be so low, I’d probably do this at home more often.” – Obstetrics & Gynecology 

“I use swabs when my ears feel wet after a shower. Happy if some wax shows on swab, happy if I end the wet ear sensation. If I forget I find myself with terribly itchy ears and no cotton swabs handy. Never use keys but sometimes en route to work if I forgot to swab I’m tempted. If my ears itch between showers I put in vinegar on swab or squeezed from cotton ball.” – Family Medicine

“The earwax incorporates this delicate skin, providing an acidic flavor that inhibits pathogens, bacterial growth. It keeps it dry, it protects against chemical, mechanical irritation. It is important to have constant temperature and adequate ventilation. It’s very important to never experiment at home with ear wash!” – Diabetology

“I also remove the cap only if it is occlusive and symptomatic (deafness, vertigo …). I suggest to the patient to instill some drops of Cerulolisina or similar products, then proceed with the removal with washing.” – Gastroenterology 

“Oil in the ear-the ear wax swells and rises to the surface – easy to remove-without danger!” – Endocrinology

“When needed, an ear curette. I had a patient once was cleaning her ear with a Q-tip and fell while she was doing it, perforating her ear drum.” – Family Medicine

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