If you haven’t guessed already, your throat and ears are connected. If a Q-tip in your ear can make you cough because it stimulates a nerve in your throat, the reverse is also true, added otolaryngologist at NYU Langone Health, Dr. Erich Voigt (via IFL Science).
“An irritation in the throat such as a viral ulcer or cancerous tumor may be felt as pain in the ear because the glossopharyngeal nerve will send those sensations back to the brain, but the brain does not know where the sensation came from and interprets this as ear pain,” explained Dr. Voigt who added that he’s seen this happen in his own practice with patients.
It is also interesting to note that not everyone might have this involuntary cough reflex. According to a 2017 study published in the journal Chest, Arnold’s ear-cough reflex might be more prevalent in those with chronic cough symptoms. Discussing Q-tips in ears won’t be complete without going into the dangers of this practice. You may have heard them before, but here’s a refresher.