Come Hear Again

Can Digging in Your Ears Cause Tinnitus or Damage?

a hearing loss patient with left ear pain

Most people have probably gone too deep with an earbud at least once in their lives. Perhaps, there was a bit of pain or discomfort, or possibly you saw a bit of blood, but can this cause and permanent damage? You were probably worried at the time, and rightly so, the inside of the ear is a sensitive area and needs to be treated with care. Unfortunately, there are some dangers that doing this can have on the ear. Below we will outline a few of these hazards:

What is tinnitus? 

First of all, you will want to know what tinnitus is if you do not know already. Tinnitus is the perception of a sound that does not exist in the ears. Usually, people describe this as a ringing or a clicking or a whistling sound in the ear. In general, it is a phantom sound that may come and go and can range in severity from annoying to pretty much disabling. It can affect concentration and stop you from sleeping at its worse. So, you are going to want to know if digging about in the ear can cause this problem.

What damage can be caused by using a cotton swab?

Let's get something straight first, it does not necessarily have to be a cotton swab! There are many things that people may use to clear out the ears, and each are just as damaging as the last. The damage that these items can cause are hearing loss, a perforated eardrum4 or damage to the ear canal. 

Eardrums are delicate and needed to be treated with care

The eardrum is not a strong part of the body. It does not take a lot for a cotton bud to damage or rupture it. It is also something that can take a long time to heal. You can develop a ruptured eardrum from some kind of trauma such as a slap, or a head injury too.

What happens if you damage your ear or puncture your eardrum?

If you damage your eardrum, you will know all about it. It will be very painful, like a sharp pain or maybe you experience some fluid leaking, possible some pus. You may even develop tinnitus and hearing loss. If you rupture your eardrum, there is a possibility that an earache that you have been experiencing from disappears. You may get middle ear infections too. Some people experience facial weakness or dizziness as a result of a ruptured eardrum. If any of this happens, you need to see a doctor, and you may need surgery to fix the damage you have caused.

What is a ruptured eardrum?

A ruptured eardrum is where you cause a tear in the membrane of tissues that separates the inner ear and the outer ear. The technical name of this membrane is tympanic membrane. It is made of similar tissue to that of the skin. The eardrum converts sound waves and vibrations into something the brain can understand, sounds and voices. The eardrum also serves a protective purpose too, as it protects the middle ear from foreign objects, bacteria and water. If the eardrum is ruptured, the usually sterile middle ear is left vulnerable to infection, and things such as otitis media can occur. This is generally earache, or bleeding from the ear.

How is a ruptured eardrum diagnosed?

A doctor will do an examination called an otoscopic exam, where they shine a light into your ear and take a look inside. Usually, they will be able to see a tear or a hole in the eardrum, unless there is too much build-up of wax. In which case the wax needs to be clear via ear drops.

How do you treat a ruptured eardrum?

The only treatment for a ruptured eardrum is time. The body will heal you. This can take up to three months. In some cases, you may need a course of antibiotics to heal any infections or prevent any infections so the ear can heal properly. For pain, generally, you can get the non-prescription kind, paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen. You can also apply a warm compress to it, which will ease the pain.

The answer is yes, digging in your ears can cause damage and tinnitus, so please be careful. If you do have severe wax build-up see a doctor about getting your ears syringed. You could also purchase ear drops. However, for the most part, earwax will fall out on its own.  

If you are worried about any damage to you ear, please call the Hearing Wellness Centre at (519) 735-4327.