According to The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), digging around in your ears with cotton buds can cause “chronic changes to the skin of the ear canal” and impair the ear’s natural self-cleaning system.
Here’s the thing: earwax (cerumen) is supposed to be in your ears. And using cotton buds, as satisfying as it might feel, can push ear wax deeper into your ear canal. Apart from damaging the ear canal skin, it can lead to infection and you could puncture your ear drum.
Chewing and jaw movements will help push old earwax out naturally. You should use a soft cloth to clean around the outside of your ear.
The RACGP recommends that you should only ever use eardrops from the chemist to soften wax.
If you have wax build-up, your doctor can clean your ears with an ear syringe. Failing that, your GP will refer you to a specialist ENT for further treatment.