A 31-year-old British man had to go to the hospital after getting an infection in his ear that spread to the lining of his skull. After having seizures and collapsing, he was rushed to the hospital where he had to have surgery.
It turned out that a bit of cotton swab he’d used to clean his ears was the culprit. It's thought that some cotton came off and lodged in the ear canal, eventually causing a bacterial infection and abscesses. While the man needed medical assistance and had to spend some time recuperating, he recovered completely.
The Mayo Clinic reminds people that earwax is actually important; it traps dirt and bacteria and lubricates the ear canal. Cotton swabs are not recommended for cleaning ears, which generally don’t need to be cleaned.
Sources: BMJ, Mayo Clinic