(Reuters Health) - A sampling of U.S. emergency department records confirms that sticking anything smaller than your elbow in your ear is a good way to puncture an eardrum.
About 66 percent of patients treated for traumatic tympanic membrane perforations had hurt themselves by sticking instruments, in their ears, and nearly half of these cases involved cotton-tipped swabs.
In our experience, cotton tip applicators (Q-tips and similar products) are frequently the instrument that patients will use to clean their ears, lead author Dr. Eric Carnoil, an otolaryngologist at the University of Toronto, told Reuters Health by email.
Our conjecture is that the majority of these injuries were caused by patients trying to get their own ear wax out, he said.
The tympanic membrane, or eardrum, is a structure that transmits sounds from the outer ear to the bones inside the ear, and perforating the membrane can lead to hearing loss, Carnoil and his colleagues write in JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery.
Otolaryngologists (Ear, Nose and Throat doctors) see many patients in the office with tympanic membrane perforations that are most often caused by ear infections or trauma, Carnoil noted.
The current study focused on the traumatic causes of eardrum ...