'A cotton bud almost killed me': Mum's near-death experience after cleaning her ear

Kamilia Palu
News Editor

Jasmine Small, 38, of Grafton in northern NSW, didn’t realise how dangerous the seemingly harmless products could be, until she began experiencing difficulties hearing out of her left ear at the end of 2016.

“I couldn’t really hear out of my left ear. That was the biggest thing,” Ms Small told Yahoo7.

“That lasted about seven or eight months,” she said, before her partner encouraged her to see a doctor.

Jasmine Small and her husband were forced to delay their honeymoon. Source: Jasmine Small

Ms Small also experienced pain when she cleaned her ears and often found a brown discharge and blood inside her ear. She said there was also an odour associated with the liquid.

Over the following year, Ms Small returned numerous times to the doctor, but felt she was never taken seriously.

“I was going back several times saying, ‘look my ear is still smelly’. She kept giving me antibiotics but they weren’t helping,” she said.

“That was for a year on and off with antibiotics, so it was pretty annoying.”

Finally in 2017, after being referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist, Ms Small was told she needed an immediate operation and was forced to postpone her honeymoon.

“He [the doctor] said, ‘what have you put in your ear?’ I said, ‘cotton buds’. He said, ‘how far do you go down?’’ Ms Small recalled.

A CT scan revealed the extent of the damage caused by the ear bud. Source: Jasmine Small

“He said, ‘if you put this off any longer you probably would’ve died’.”

A CT scan showed an infection deep inside her ear, and terrifyingly close to her brain – all sparked from a loose strand of cotton from the ear bud.

The operation was successful, but unfortunately Ms Small’s hearing was permanently damaged. She is now faced with having another round of surgery to attempt to restore it, or have a hearing aid installed.

“To have a hearing aid at 38, it’s not right,” she said.

Unbelievably, doctors believe the tiny piece of cotton from the ear bud could have been lodged in her ear for up to five years – as early as 2014.

Ms Small said she experienced ear aches back then, but it wasn’t until 2016 that her hearing started to fade.

Ms Small’s ear just one day after surgery. Source: Jasmine Small

“I’ve got a bump at the back of my head but it’s a reminder that I’m lucky,” she said.

“I just want people to be aware you may think it’s harmless to clean ears, just be aware of the dangers it can pose.

Ms Small has been advised that ear candling and having her ears flushed out by a doctor are safer methods of cleaning, while ear buds should never be inserted more than about half a fingernail’s depth into the ear.

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