An Australian woman has shared a cautionary tale after nearly losing her life when her habit of cleaning her ears with cotton buds caused a severe bacterial infection that started eating away at her skull.
Jasmine told That's Life magazine that she finally took action after years of suffering earaches and hearing loss, saying that it reached the point where she could barely hear her youngest sons speaking.
Jasmine said she felt a "dull ache" one night, during her nightly routine of cleaning out her ears with cotton buds.
After visiting the doctor and being prescribed antibiotics, Jasmine continued her habit of using the cotton buds until the fateful day she noticed blood on the end of the bud.
Pressured by her husband Bryon, Jasmine went to see another doctor who recommended a hearing test.
She was horrified to find that she was suffering moderate deafness in one ear.
The doctor was so concerned by the results of the test that he referred her to an ear, nose and throat specialist.
After a CT scan, the specialist broke some alarming news.
Telling Jasmine that "you need surgery yesterday", he explained that a severe bacterial infection was eating away at her skull behind her ear.
Without surgery, the doctor explained, the infection could reach the brain.
"You could die."
Jasmine needed a five-hour operation to reconstruct her ear canal and remove the infected tissue.
As she came round from the surgery the surgeon asked: "What have you been putting in your ear?"
When she revealed she had been using cotton buds the surgeon told her that the cotton fibres had lodged themselves in her ear and become infected.
The infection had left her skull paper-thin and the surgeon told Jasmine that she would have died if she had waited any longer to seek treatment.
She now takes every opportunity to warn others about the use of cotton buds, telling That's Life: "Our ears are such delicate and sensitive parts of our body and need to be treated with care. It's so scary that my simple act of hygiene could have cost me my life."
Richard Harvey, professor of rhinology at the University of New South Wales and Macquarie University, told news.com.au in 2017: "A good rule of thumb for most people is that they shouldn't put anything smaller than their elbow in their ear."
"The problem is that this effort to eliminate earwax is only creating further issues because the earwax is just getting pushed down and impacted further into the ear canal," he added.
A report in the Journal of Pediatrics showed that in the US, 34 patients under 18 end up in the emergency department every day because of injuries related to use of cotton buds.