After announcing the ban on earbuds, many people wonder how dangerous they really are. Because in recent decades, the cotton swabs have been found in almost every household and have become indispensable in terms of ear hygiene. At the latest, with the adoption of the new EU laws for the decimation of plastic waste, alternatives to ear buds are needed. We show whether the cotton swabs are not only polluting, but also dangerous and how you can clean your ears without the swab.
How dangerous are ear sticks really?
Around 80 years ago, the American Leo Gerstenzang invented the earstick to make it easier for parents to clean their children’s ears. The new utility tool was accepted with thanks, making the cotton swab indispensable in many households.
It took a few more years before it became known that cotton swabs are not suitable for their intended purpose. Doctors found that the ear wax in the ear canal is often not removed, but only moved backwards. The secretion settles there and can significantly limit the sense of hearing. In addition, it became increasingly common that the eardrum was accidentally injured when cleaning. It so happened that the information on the leaflet of the cotton swabs soon followed that they should not be pushed into the ear canal.
This clearly shows that ear sticks are quite dangerous and are not suitable for ear hygiene.
Effects and risks of ear sticks
The frequent use of ear sticks carries considerable risks, which can lead to the complete loss of hearing. They most often have hearing impairments and ear infections observed.
Die Gründe für die Risiken, die mit der Benutzung von Ohrenstäbchen einhergehen, liegen darin, dass das Ohrenschmalz tief in den Gehörgang hineingeschoben wird. Obgleich das Sekret als unästhetisch empfunden wird, wird ihm eine wichtige Funktion im menschlichen Körper zugetan. Es sorgt dafür, dass der Innenraum des Ohres mit ausreichend Feuchtigkeit versorgt ist und reinigt den Gehörgang. Das Ohrenschmalz transportiert Unrat wie Schmutz und Bakterien aus dem Ohr hinaus, sodass sich dieses nicht festsetzen kann oder gar das empfindliche Trommelfell schädigt. Sprechen wir also davon, unser Ohr zu reinigen, tun wir dies nicht im eigentlichen Sinne, da das Organ bereits eigenständig dafür sorgt. Unsere Ohrenhygiene umfasst also nur das Entfernen von Ohrenschmalz.
Wird das Ohrenschmalz mit dem Wattestäbchen stetig nach hinten geschoben, leidet darunter nicht nur die Selbstreinigung des Organs. Das Sekret sammelt sich tief im Gehörgang und verhärtet dort. Dabei bildet es den perfekten Nährboden für Bakterien und Krankheitserreger.
The hardened ear wax usually manifests itself as a strong itching or burning sensation. The itching is a harbinger and first indication for the fixing of the ear wax.
After the itching, there is a burning sensation. This pain indicates that inflammation has already developed in the ear canal. Bacteria could no longer be transported outside and settled inside the ear. Another cause of the burning may be the formation of a plug. The ear wax can expand like a sponge to the eardrum and damage it.
The use of ear sticks and the resulting build-up of ear wax can have other effects that can seriously impair hearing:
- Ear infections
- Complete hearing loss
Another risk that should not be underestimated when using ear sticks is the injury to the ear canal. While the outer part of the ear is still soft and compliant, the inner ear becomes increasingly hardened. Sometimes it only consists of skin, cartilage and bone. This means that not only the eardrum, but also the ear canal can be injured with the rough cotton swab.
Alternative to the ear stick
Ears are dangerous, which is why doctors urgently recommend alternatives. In principle, the ear should not be cleaned from the outside at all, but left to its self-cleaning mechanism. However, visible ear wax is perceived by most people as unsanitary. With these alternatives to the ear stick, nobody has to do without ear hygiene:
- The outer, visible part of the ear is cleaned with a washcloth and lukewarm water.
- When showering, the water jet is carefully held on the ear. But be careful: the water pressure can damage the inner ear, so the jet should not be held directly in the ear.