Damaged my eardrums with Qtips

I am a age group amateur Triathlete and had an accident at a recent Triathlon in early July.

Since I planned on wearing hearing aids during the bike and run, it was my intention to dry my ears out with Q-Tips and insert my hearing aids so I could complete the bike and run and be able to hear. Sounds simple right? Well, I ran into T1 and inserted the Q-tips into my ears, the same way as I do after every shower at home. I got my bike stuff on and was ready to put my helmet on so I reached up to remove the Q-Tips and accidentally struck them with the palm of my had shoving them deep into my ears. As soon as that happened, my hearing went to zero. I fused with the Q-tips for a moment and stumbled around in transition for about a minute when I thought “well, it could just be water pushed deep into my ears so I should continue to race”. I did so but could hear almost nothing during the bike and run.

After the race, I went to a buddy’s trailer and we put some swimmers ear drops (mostly alcohol) into my right ear. Instantly, I was screaming in pain as if felt like scalding liquid burning my ear from deep inside. At that point, I knew I had a serious ear injury. I walked back to the start finish line so see some of the other finishers and bother ears started dripping blood. The blood pooling in my middle ears made me start to feel ill and I began to have serious balance issues. I stayed for the awards and then went to Keizer hospital in Sacramento.

The doctor the examined me said that I had completely ruptured both ear drums and I would need to see a specialist when I returned home. He gave me some antibiotics and medicine to help control my balance and sickness. The very next Monday, I saw my racing budding in Redding who happens to be an ENT doctor. He looked in my ears and said that it will be at least two or three months before they heal and I absolutely cannot swim until they are healed. So that pretty much scraps the Triathlon season for this year, however I do plan on doing two Marathons at a minimum. The CIM in Sacramento on December 4th and the Redding Marathon January 7th,

Right now, because my balance still remains a problem, my driving is limited and bike riding is out for a while. I cannot talk on the phone or communicate with people verbally unless they are very close and speaking directly into my face (loudly). Fortunately, I have a group of good assistant managers that can help me at work by dealing with all my phone and customer interaction duties. If you have ever swam deep underwater and noticed how quiet it is, that how I feel all the time right now. However, my buddy thinks I should be good to go in a few months so I am not worrying too much.


Last Monday I saw my ENT and the holes in my eardrums have not started to heal yet but they have stopped bleeding. I did see my audiologist did a new new hearing test and then reprogrammed my hearing aids so that I could hear a little better, but using the telephone is still not possible at all. Now, my low frequency hearing is way down in the 70’s and 80 now. She did set me up with a Bluetooth wireless streamer that sends my cell phone signal directly into my hearing aids while muting all other external sounds. This works pretty well actually.

Anyway, it will be several months before things heal up and I can hear again. As you can imagine, Q-tips are no longer used in my house.

Wow! So sorry to hear this and I hope you heal quickly. It’s amazing how quickly things can change in one’s life. Having fell and destroyed the hearing in one ear I know this only too well. I know someone who is permanently deaf in one ear due to a q-tip incident.

A friend of mine recently told me that his mother deafened herself in one ear with a q-tip. When my friend was a little kid he and his mom were playing alien (pretending they were aliens) and she put q-tips in both her ears to look more like an alien creature. Well, she fell sideways against a wall and the q-tip in one ear went through her eardrum and into her middle ear. The force of the intruding q-tip moved all the bones of the her middle ear and caused damage right through to the oval window that the stapes is connected to. She’s been deaf in that ear ever since.

Please heal well, and be careful. Don’t push things too soon even if you feel “a little better”. Give your ears time to completely heal. Q-tips can be so dangerous. Who would think that a little cotton puff at the end of a cardboard or plastic stick could wreak such havoc on people?

I’m really sorry all this has happened to you. It’s amazing how screwed up things can get from just one split-second misjudgment or otherwise being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There but for the grace of God go everyone of us, maybe not with Q-tips for those who heed the mom/MD admonition to never stick anything smaller than an elbow in there, but in many other ways, we all do the dance with havoc every day of our lives. Maybe it’s healthier not to dwell on that. If you encounter mocking about what you did, consider that it may be others’ way of blocking out their own anxiety about the seeming randomness of life.

I used to think that if one punctured the eardrum, that’s it, that ear would never hear again, but as your ENT probably told you, if you do as they say, and take good care of your ears by avoiding swimming and doing other things that will help prevent infections, you have an excellent chance of recovering hearing as the eardrums heal. Try to stay positive and find positive ways to use this time. Try to avoid letting yourself wallow. Things will slowly get better. Take it a day at a time, because that’s how life’s coming whether you do or don’t. :slight_smile:

I wish you all the best. Keep us updated.

EDIT: I was typing my post before I saw lohearn’s, as you can see by the times of our posts. In some ways we said the same things, and in some ways, it was different. I’m ASSUMING your ENT told you that you did not damage your middle ear and have a good chance for recovering your hearing, because the tympanic membrane itself can heal. I hope that’s the case here for you.

My friend’s mom did actually push the q-tip into the middle ear so no chance for her. MKAH, that’s why I said to take it easy even if you “feel” better. You can most likely recover completely from this but you have to let those tympanic membranes heal themselves completely.

Rest, relax, heal - that’s an order! :smiley:

Thank you all so much for the kind words and thoughts. I will keep you updated on my progress over the next few months. :slight_smile:


I had another examination and hearing test (five weeks post accident). Large holes are still present in my eardrums, but they appear to be healing. Rather than being kidney shaped holes, they are beginning to heal so that the holes are more round with white colored edges.

Also, my hearing has improved by about 30% or 40% from per-accident testing.

In a matter of a few more months I should be in pretty good shape.

Good news indeed, probably the best you can hope for to date. I hope it keeps improving. Good luck!

At 12:00pm today I had Tympanoplasty surgery to repair my right eardrum. I should know in about a month if it was successful. My left eardrum healed on it’s own.

Please think positive thoughts for me. It is great to have a bunch of good people to share this problem with. I appreciate that a lot! :slight_smile:

One last thing.

I don’t know how it is possible, but I seem to have better hearing in my right ear only 12 hours post op and I still have a big plastic cup over my ear and my canal is stuffed with bandages, jell and other stuff.

I suppose that now that the cartridge implant is making contact with the Malleus bone and covering the hole, it would explain my new found hearing.

Hopefully this is a good sign. :smiley:


It has been a full week and my ears are still leaking clear / yellow /redish fluid. Some slight stabbing pain and very itchy feeling which I hope is a sign of healing). Hearing seems to be pretty much zero as my inner ear feels like it is full of liquid. I have random occasional popping noises which is startling. Also, I am hearing very loud ringing noise (tinnitus).

My post operation appointment is on the 29th, I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Did your doctor tell you that you could have clear/yellow/redish fluid from your ear. Could be a sign of an infection! A call in to the doctor might be in order. Like today, I would not wait until the 29th. Good luck!

OK, Quick update.

I am just past two weeks post op from my Tympanolasty. Dr. said I still have a bit of gel-foam on the exterior portion of my eardrum and probably lots more behind my ear drum. He suctioned off what he could without getting too close to my ear drum.

Here is the great part. After the Doctor was done examining my ear, he said that it is healing up perfectly and he could not be happier with the progress. I should be able to do some light running and cycling by next week and maybe swimming in a month.

The very best part is I can now wear my hearing aid in that ear now (maybe 4 hours per day) and my hearing is pretty darn good already.

I write this with glassy eyes as I am so grateful to be able to hear again.

MKAH, glad to hear your incident seems to have healed well! I’d always been warned to never stick Q-tips in my ears, and when I asked my audiologist how to dry my ears after my morning shower before putting in my hearing aids (I’m impatient to get them in there, but don’t want to wet them) the first thing he said was DON’T USE Q-TIPS in the ear! OK for drying the outside, but never in the canal. Sometimes I felt silly shying away from Q-tips when so many people stick them in their ears every day, but between my audiologist and your accident I’m ready to start campaigning amongst my friends!

Just curious, but what did the ENT use for the eardrum repair? I’ve had it twice - once with fascia, once with cartilage out of my ear. The cartilage has held up - the fascia tore and never repaired - but being thicker, I’ve lost a fair bit of highs because of it.

Obviously, glad you’re having better luck.