Woman who cleaned ears with cotton swab nearly dies from infection
She got more than an earful.
Every night before bed, 37-year-old Jasmine would clean her ears with a cotton swab. She had no idea how much damage she was causing until she nearly died.
“I’d been suffering hearing loss and an infuriating noise in my left ear on and off for years,” Jasmine writes for That’s Life magazine, using only her first name.
By February 2018, she could barely hear her young sons and decided to visit a doctor. She was given antibiotics for an ear infection and continued with her evening habit of cotton swabbing.
Soon, though, the swabs began emerging from her ear coated with a brown discharge — and then, blood. She visited her doctor again. A hearing test found she was partially deaf in her left ear, so she was referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist. That’s when a CT scan revealed a bacterial infection was eating away at her skull. “You need surgery yesterday,” that doctor told her.
Without it, the infection could eat into her brain and kill her.
“The cotton had been collecting and festering for as long as five years, and my skull bone behind the ear was paper-thin,” she writes. “I had no idea that a hidden killer was wedged inside my ear!”
After marrying her fiancé that April, Jasmine put their honeymoon on hold and went under the knife for a five-hour surgery to remove the affected tissue.
Doctors were able to clear the infection, but the damage was permanent. “[A] firecracker could go off beside my ear and I’d barely register it,” she writes. “It’s so scary that my simple act of hygiene could have cost me my life.”
While Jasmine’s case is extreme, doctors say cotton-tip applicators such as Q-tips are a continual menace.
“They cause a lot of problems,” Mount Sinai Hospital otolaryngologist Dr. Aldo Londino tells The Post — especially among children.
“Kids, they put [cotton swabs in] the ear and they fall or bump into something. It can poke a hole in their ear,” Londino says, adding that the swabs “can lead to hearing loss” if complications caused by them are left untreated.
In 2017, a study found cotton swabs send an average of 34 children to the emergency room every day. More than a quarter million children were treated between 1990 and 2010 for swab-related injuries, according to the study.
For those with particularly waxy ears, Londino recommends peroxide drops — adding that Q-tips don’t actually help. “In reality, you’re pushing the ear wax closer to the drum,” he says.