Phantom Sway

I Will Never, Ever Give Up My Cotton Swabs. Ever.

Doctors say “no” but my ears say “ooooooh, yeah!”

I find few things more satisfying than cleaning my ears. I have always had a strange obsession with ear wax. I suppose I just find it fascinating that something like that could end up inside your head. I can’t quite explain it, but knowing I’ve removed a big glob of ear wax just makes me feel…better.


This recent article at Slate on removing ear wax with a paper clip triggered all my ear wax obsessions. I actually felt envious that this man had more ear wax than I did.


To my shock and utter outrage, CNN has reported that doctors recommend you do not use cotton swabs in your ear for any purpose.

Updated clinical guidelines published Tuesday in the Journal of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery say they’re not appropriate for earwax removal. In fact, information for patients in the guidelines say no to putting anything “smaller than your elbow in your ear.”

I’m assuming this means I’m okay to insert my elbow into my ear when the mood strikes me.

Cotton swabs, hair pins, house keys and toothpicks — the many smaller-than-our-elbow-objects we love to put in our ears — can cause cuts in our ear canals, perforate our eardrums and dislocate our hearing bones. And any of these things could lead to hearing loss, dizziness, ringing or other symptoms of ear injury.

Who is sticking house keys into their ears??? And I love to live on the edge but a toothpick seems kind of risky too.

The guidelines published in 2008 were overdue for an update. While new randomized trials have been included, “nothing very dramatic” has changed, other than an improvement in the methodology itself, said Schwartz: “The process has become a little more transparent in the way we actually write the guidelines now. We are more clear about why the decisions we made are made and what data there is to support it.”

Let me tell you something, America…Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery will pry my cotton swabs from my dead, waxy hands. Not only will I never give up the contentment of seeing that soft, cotton tip covered in the magnificent miracle of ear wax, I refuse to walk around all morning after my shower with moist, cold ear canals. I don’t ever feel completely dry until I’ve taken those last drops of water out of my ear.

And then there’s the beach! We spend a lot of time at the beach here in southern California and if you spend enough time in the waves you’re bound to discover some sand has crept into your ears. It makes me feel crazy to know there’s sand in there. A shower and a good swab are a must when I get home from a day at the ocean.

I understand that the good doctors feel they are just looking out for our hearing and comfort, but I will not capitulate to this tyranny. This is America. Our forefathers fought and died for our right to liberty, life and the pursuit of clean ear canals. This is something you’d see in communist Russia or North Korea. I don’t expect to see this in the land of the free.

Call me a fool, but I’ll take my chances with the cotton swabs. To me, they are a beautiful first-world comfort and – as bizarre as it may sound – a small, personal joy during my most mundane days. Give me cotton swabs or give me death!…or some other soft instrument to get out the wax.

I will never surrender my swabs. Never.




Kira Allen

When Kira isn't scaling the peaks of some of the toughest mountains in the world or exploring the Amazon rainforests she spends her time as a foster mom for her local animal shelter. Kira has volunteered for "Doctors without Borders" even though she isn't even a doctor or a nurse. Her mantra is "More speed, more height, more life..."
Just kidding....Kira is a writer, actor and suburban housewife and mother. Her mantra is "If I can't do it from the couch, is it really worth it?"

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Harriet Tubman is one of America’s most beloved historical figures but has sadly been largely relegated to just a few facts during Black History Month. This incredible ex-slave, spy, cook, nurse, public speaker and rescuer deserves a story worthy of her stature.

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