Cotton Swabs a Threat to Eardrums, But 97% of Cases Heal Naturally

The bad news: A study by Henry Ford Hospital shows a direct association between cotton swab use and ruptured eardrum. The good news: The study also shows that, in most cases, the rupture heals on its own and surgery is only necessary for the most severe cases. The study was presented at the recent Combined Otolaryngology Spring Meeting in Chicago. “In the past, many otolaryngologists have wondered if surgery is really necessary to treat a ruptured eardrum. The results of this study show that 97% of cases healed on their own within 2 months, proving that most cases do not require surgery,” says Ilaaf Darrat, MD, an otolaryngologist at Henry Ford Hospital and co-author of the study. A ruptured eardrum can be treated in one of two ways, depending on the severity of the symptoms. The most common method of treatment is observation of the perforation by an otolaryngologist because often the eardrum will heal on its own within 2 months. More severe cases are treated with surgery. Study co-author Michael Seidman, MD, FACS, director of the division of otologic and neurotologic surgery at Henry Ford Hospital, recommends that instead of cotton swabs, patients should use the following alternatives to clean the inner ear:

  • Take cool peroxide, hot tap water and mix equally.
  • Be sure it is body temperature and gently irrigate the ear one or two times per month.
  • Take plain vinegar and water and use four or five drops in the ear once a week.
  • See a doctor, who can remove ear wax for you.
  • Try an over-the-counter treatment such as Debrox. Henry Ford Hospital

Reprinted with permission from The Better Hearing Institute