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Apparently, you aren't supposed to use cotton swabs to clean your ears

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Apparently, we've been ignoring the "do not insert swab into ear canal" label on the cotton swabs box for too long. 

Updated clinical guidelines published Tuesday in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery reinforced the previously-known medical advice: Cotton swabs should not be used to remove earwax. 

In fact, experts advise against putting anything "smaller than your elbow in your ear," according to CNN

Here's why experts say cotton swabs shouldn't be used in our ears: 

Using objects like cotton swabs, bobby pins or other household objects that may be placed in our ears cause cuts in our ear canals, which can lead to pain and infection. 

The guidelines also note that using cotton swabs can lead to the dislocation of hearing bones, which could cause hearing loss, dizziness, ringing, among other symptoms. 


Let nature do its job

The body produces earwax because it traps things like dust and dirt, preventing any debris from making its way further into the ear and causing damage, Reuters reports. 

CNN reports that motions like talking and chewing, in addition to skin growth within the ear canal, helps move the old earwax from inside the ear to the outside -- so there's no real need to use those cotton swabs. The guidelines stress that there's nothing wrong with having some earwax near the opening.

Excessive ear wax build-up

The updated guidelines, which includes a "Do's and Don'ts" list, notes that overcleaning the ears can increase a person's chances of cerumen impaction or earwax buildup. 

"For those with impacted ear wax, the use of cotton-tipped swabs may push the earwax deeper into the ear canal and harm the eardrum," Dr. James Battey, director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, told CNN. 

He said anyone with impacted earwax should make an appointment with his or her healthcare provider. Oftentimes, those with earwax buildup experience symptoms such as hearing loss. 

Dr. Seth Schwartz, who is a chairman of the guideline update group, told CNN that having earwax isn't a bad thing. 

"It's more of an issue when it becomes too much," Schwartz added. 

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