The Checkup: Did You Know You’re Never Supposed to Clean Out Your Ears?

Or, “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Earwax”

• Thank you, Wall Street Journal, for your definitive piece of journalism on earwax, without which I would not have known that doctors recommend never (not a typo) cleaning out your ears. Apparently earwax is supposed to be there (duh) and, when left untampered with, it does all sorts of good things, like keeping dust, dirt, bacteria and even bugs out of your ear canals. Cleaning it out too frequently can leave the canal vulnerable to the bad stuff—not to mention the fact that rooting around on your own with a Q-tip can actually wind up jamming the wax even further in than you intended. Your best bet is to leave it alone. Or, if you really want to get it out, see an ear, nose and throat doc. And whatever you do, steer clear of ear-candling.

• Sleep—you need it. And so does your waistline. A (small) new study found that sleep deprivation helps you pack on pounds. ABC News has more.

• This is super cool: Scientists say new research on stress and its impact on the brain—namely, depression, PTSD, etc.—is uncovering new ways to prevent those conditions from developing in the first place. NPR has the full story.

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  • Phil C.

    Bad advice. I’ve had sufficient wax build-up, albeit rarely, that it resulted in earaches and partial loss of hearing. The cure is simple: Saturate a cotton swab with camphor oil, or mineral oil if the former isn’t available, gentle swabbing the outer ear canal, then use a dry swab to wipe the wax out, being careful not to go to the depth of the eardrum. A reasonable person can do this for himself without taking a trip to a clinic. Having doctors perform these simple procedures are akin to going to an emergency room for a flexible bandage or aspirin tablet: It clogs emergency rooms and drives up the cost of healthcare for everyone.