Cleaning babies’ ears with cotton buds may cause deafness —Expert

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Mothers using cotton buds to clean the ears of their babies are exposing them to the risk of hearing loss, an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist, Dr. Bunmilola Oyeleye-Bello has warned.

Oyeleye-Bello, who works at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, said it is not necessary to use cotton buds to clean the ears because nature has a way of getting rid of wax from the body.

According to her, the use of cotton bud can cause a perforation or a hole in the eardrum which she noted could lead to conductive hearing loss.

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The ENT specialist disclosed this during an exclusive interview with PUNCH HealthWise, saying “Nature has a way of getting rid of wax of the body, so we don’t need to interfere with the process by using a cotton bud.”

She said that though the use of cotton buds to clean the ear is a common practice, the hazards associated with such activities are well documented.

She pointed out that even the wax that mothers try to remove from their babies’ ears is not dirt but a normal body discharge that has a function, stressing that wax plays a vital role in protecting the ear from infection.

According to Cleveland Clinic, ear wax, also called cerumen, is made by the body to protect the ears.

“The ear wax has both lubricating and antibacterial properties. Untreated buildup can lead to hearing loss, irritation, pain in the ear, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and other problems,” the clinic added.

Oyeleye-Bello explained, “When mothers use a cotton bud to clean the ears of their babies and it brings out this chocolate, brownish, creamy substance, they think is dirt. It is not dirt, we called it wax or cerumen.

“It has a function in the ear and the function is that it fights against bacteria and fungi. It also helps the skin in the ear canal from becoming macerated. What that means is, it prevents the skin from disintegrating under the influence of water. So, that is the function of wax. It is not dirt. It is a normal body discharge that has a function.

“That is the first thing we need to let people and mothers understand. And then, nature has a way of getting the body rid of the wax. So, we don’t need to interfere with the process by using our cotton buds. Nature has a way of getting rid of wax once it finishes its function.”

Giving insight into the dangers of using cotton buds to clear the ear, the ENT expert stated that it damages the normal migration pattern of the skin in the ear.

“You will disrupt that natural migration of wax and that is one of the causes of wax accumulating in the ear. Quite a number of individuals have wax accumulation, instead of it falling off naturally, the migration pattern is damaged, so it begins to accumulate in the ear, and sometimes, it blocks the ear.

“Then they now have to come and see a specialist and we now have to bring out the wax. So that is one of the things that using cotton buds does. So, it damages the normal migration pattern of the skin in the ear.

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