You've probably heard that cleaning your ears with a cotton swab can push wax further down. It can also lead to a perforated ear drum. A study at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit found that more than half the patients seen in ear, nose and throat clinics admit to using cotton swabs to clean their ears. The research also showed that when the eardrum is perforated as a result of swabbing, 97 percent of all cases heal within two months without treatment. The rest require surgery. Symptoms of a ruptured eardrum include hearing loss, drainage, dizziness or abnormalities in facial movements - see a doctor if any of these occur. One of the study co-authors advises that instead of using cotton swabs, you can play it safe cleaning the ears by irrigating them once or twice a month with a mixture of equal parts of peroxide and warm tap water (be sure the fluid is body temperature). Other options: use a combination of plain vinegar and water - and place four or five drops in the ear once a week. You can also have a doctor remove your earwax or use an over-the-counter earwax treatment.
Ask Dr. Weil: Eyes and Ears