For a lot of people, digging around your ear with a cotton bud to dispose of wax is as habitual as cleaning your teeth.
While it may feel soothing and relaxing, doctors are advising people to stop cleaning your ears with cotton buds, immediately.
Doctors revealed they are seeing thousands of children with serious ear injuries every year after attempts at self-cleaning went wrong.
While many believe using cotton buds helps clear away any wax, intruding on the ear is actually preventing the ear from cleaning itself.
"A good rule of thumb for most people is that they shouldn't put anything smaller than their elbow in their ear," Richard Harvey, professor of rhinology at the University of New South Wales and Macquarie University, said.
"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."
The ear has its own self-cleaning system. Earwax and other secretions work together to keep dirt away from the eardrum, while the movement of the jaw pushes that wax out of the ear canal to prevent blockages.
Researchers report in the Journal of Pediatrics that in the US, 34 patients under 18 end up in the emergency department every day because of injuries related to the swabs.
But do we really have to clean our ears?
Ear and hearing specialist Brande Plotnick told healthyhearing.com that the ear canal doesn't need to be cleaned but that the outer ear benefits from a gentle clean.
"In most cases, the ear canal does not need to be cleaned.
"During hair washing or showers, enough water enters the ear canal to loosen the wax that has accumulated... the skin in your ear canal naturally grows in an outward, spiral pattern.
"Most of the time the wax will loosen and fall out on its own while you are asleep. The need for a cotton swab isn't necessary."
For those who feel the urge to clean their ears the advice is to plan a trip to the doctor so they can expertly remove any wax build up.