International Journal of Head and Neck Surgery

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VOLUME 7 , ISSUE 1 ( January-March, 2016 ) > List of Articles


To Swab or Not to Swab: Appropriate Medical Advice Regarding Self-Ear-Cleaning

Neil M Sperling, William M Portnoy

Citation Information : Sperling NM, Portnoy WM. To Swab or Not to Swab: Appropriate Medical Advice Regarding Self-Ear-Cleaning. Int J Head Neck Surg 2016; 7 (1):1-4.

DOI: 10.5005/jp-journals-10001-1256

Published Online: 01-06-2017

Copyright Statement:  Copyright © 2016; The Author(s).



We seek to review the medical literature and explore the cultural practices and lore of self-ear-cleaning to arrive at appropriate medical advice for our patients.


The medical consensus recommends against the practice of self-ear-cleaning as it may lead to complications or injury. There is a wide gap between the recommendations of the medical community and the general public's perception about ear-cleaning habits. Despite ample advice, the practice of ear cleaning with swabs is pervasive.

Review results

A review of the available medical literature reveals a few articles that associate self-ear-clearing with injury. Even fewer articles provide data as to the prevalence of self-ear-cleaning making the relative risk of such a practice difficult to ascertain. Despite this scarcity of data, most authors continue to advocate for avoiding the practice of self-ear-cleaning.

Clinical significance

In light of the ubiquitous use of cotton tip swabs, the practice of self-ear-cleaning deserves additional medical evaluation to identify safe and acceptable procedures regarding contemporary hygiene of the ear. It appears likely that medical advice for self-ear-cleaning has been disproportionately influenced by the unusual adverse outcomes that are possible rather than evidence-based guidelines.

How to cite this article

Sperling NM, Portnoy WM. To Swab or Not to Swab: Appropriate Medical Advice Regarding Self-Ear-Cleaning. Int J Head Neck Surg 2016;7(1):1-4.

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