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Should we clean our ears with cotton buds to prevent infection?

Q: I was diagnosed to be having CSOM (Chronic Suppurative Otitis Media) with acute mastoiditis and have undergone an operation to remove the infectious area. I was born with congenital microtia (small ear). My question is - what is the best way to care for my ear to avoid the infection from happening again? The doctors say that our ear already has the mechanism to remove the dead cells etc. so we don't need to clean our ears using cotton buds as it will cause the blockage of the ear canal and can lead to infection such as otitis externa or otitis media. Is this true? How do we ensure cleanliness then?

A:It is not advisable to use cotton buds or other such implements inserted into your ear. In doing so one is likely to cause more harm than good. The skin of the ear canal has self-cleansing properties and thus nature does the job for us. Occasionally, if this property is lost, then it is best to have your ear cleaned by your ENT doctor. If the skin of the ear canal is sensitive or if you have a perforated ear drum, you may be advised to use ear plugs or a ball of cotton wool to plug your ear while bathing, showering or swimming to prevent water and soap / chemicals from entering and irritating your ear.

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