The short answer is no, they are not inherently bad. They have many useful applications, such as making crafts, cleaning electronics and even removing makeup. However, they should not be used to clean out your ears. In fact, if you look at the back of the box there is a warning NOT to put the cotton swab down inside of your ear canal.
There are several reasons for this. First of all is that wax by itself is not a bad thing. The body makes wax for a reason. It helps to keep the skin inside of the ear canal moist and healthy. Often times Q-tip users will say that their ears are itchy and that is why they need to use a Q-tip, so they can scratch the itch. Little do they realize that they caused the itchiness in the first place by constantly removing the ears natural moisturizer.
Q-tips can also push the wax in deeper into the ear canal. Wax is made in the outer 1/3 of the ear canal, and the ear usually moves the wax out of the ear naturally where it can be easily cleaned up. When wax is pushed deeper into the canal if often stays there and will need to be removed by a doctor. Often times when we look in someoneâ€™s ear we can see small specks of wax that have not only been pushed down to the eardrum, but they also have a few cotton fibers stuck to them as well. Sometimes people will pack the wax in and block off the ear canal completely, which then creates the need to see the doctor to have the ear cleaned out.
Finally, Q-tips can damage the ear. This can range from a small scratch or blood blister in the ear, (The ear canal is a very tender place and can be easily injured) to perforating the eardrum and disrupting the 3 little bones in the ear. This can be very painful and may even cause permanent hearing loss.
So, next time you are about to put a small cotton covered stick of mayhem and destruction in your ear, step away from the Q-tip box and reach instead for a Kleenex, and using the tip of your finger gently clean the outer portion of your ear canal. Your ears will thank you for it.