My father used to do the same work.
October 18, 2010 10:20 PM   Subscribe

Professional ear cleaners are not always popular amongst backpackers in India. Few realize it's an ancient trade, passed down from father to son. It's also one that may be dying in the face of stiff competition from Q-tips and western medicine. How does one recognize an authentic professional ear cleaner? By his red skull cap, of course.
posted by Ahab (91 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Reading this made me reach for the Q-tips in my desk drawer... ah...
posted by Jacqueline at 10:31 PM on October 18, 2010


Argh. Ears... suddenly itching...
posted by loquacious at 10:37 PM on October 18, 2010


Thanks for the interesting post!
posted by amyms at 10:42 PM on October 18, 2010


Why stick with ears? In the face of declining patronage maybe they should branch out and go into noses too. There'd be some rich pickings there.
posted by unliteral at 10:44 PM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Is it just me of does everyone have a look of anguish? The political scientist in me wants to remark about low wages, high unemployment rates and the creation of odd jobs. Did anyone here have this done? It looks painful and unnecessary.
posted by Felex at 10:45 PM on October 18, 2010


Apparently ear cleaning is a thing in Japan too: "In Japan, cleaning your man’s ears is a time-honored tradition, a romantic act signifying intimacy. The Japanese mother of an exboyfriend was once horrified when she saw her son using an ear picker to clean out his own ear. “I always picked my husband’s ears,” she said in an accusatory tone. Point taken, it’s the duty of the girlfriend or wife to lovingly clean her man’s ears." Boing Boing even did an "expose" on it with commentary from an Otolaryngologist.

I think that if carefully done it sounds kinda awesome. The part where the ear cleaning dudes descend on you and start poking in your ears without permission, not so much. Q-tips are definitely a double-edged sword (ha!) - they tend to compact ear was as much as remove it.
posted by GuyZero at 10:55 PM on October 18, 2010


Both my sons look forward to having their ears cleaned by their (Japanese) mom.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:59 PM on October 18, 2010


They do look like they are in anguish. Then again, that is pretty much the look on my face when I am having an orgasm.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:05 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


As someone whose ears get blocked at least once every year, and who has tried several methods of getting them cleaned or keeping them clean, I can assure you that the Indian ear cleaners are nowhere close to being as good as professional medical staff around the world.

The relief felt after having my ears cleaned is almost at the same level as when I first got glasses after several months of having poor eyesight and not even knowing it ("I can see individual leaves on the tree!").
posted by vidur at 11:05 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm so glad you posted this! For some time I've been trying to remember where I read an article describing in great detail the author's skepticism and subsequent conversion after actually trying it. I thought it was the New Yorker, but maybe it was one of those backpackers from India Mike.
posted by gubenuj at 11:08 PM on October 18, 2010


Ear cleaners in Chengdu (China).

My parents always cleaned my ears with the tiny spoon shaped tool that's common in China. It was just a fact of life, like getting your nails clipped. But my son, who is half Caucasian, has wet ear wax which I confess I find horrifying and I don't know how to deal with it!
posted by girlhacker at 11:08 PM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Interesting. I think I had the opposite reaction of lots of people here. Cleaning out your ears is something that almost no one does well. There's something great about watching someone do it with craftsmanlike skill.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:10 PM on October 18, 2010


I don't use qtips, spoons, or manservants. As far as I know, ears are essentially self-cleaning. Perhaps irritating your ears makes them overproduce wax.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:15 PM on October 18, 2010


My right ear seems to slough off on a pretty regular schedule, sometimes in a single, tube-shaped piece that resembles a corn flake. My left ear is more conventional wet-wax caucasian style.

I admit that using the looped end of a bobby pin is my favorite no-no for ear scraping, which yes, feels fantastic. I would totally let some Indian walla clean my ears for rs. 15.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:24 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


My ears are self-cleaning, up until the time they get blocked and have to be syringed out by a Dr. I wish there was a better way. And I don't want my wife/children poking around in there with a spoon, no matter how small!
posted by sneebler at 11:30 PM on October 18, 2010


Could you write a little louder please?
posted by Cranberry at 11:54 PM on October 18, 2010


But my son, who is half Caucasian, has wet ear wax which I confess I find horrifying and I don't know how to deal with it!

I twirl up some TP or nose tissue into a cone like you would for a nose bleed and rub it around. It's usually too soft to compact the wax and also wet wax sticks on it. Make a few cones and you're clear for a good while.
posted by yeloson at 11:55 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wish there was a better way

Lie on your side, dribble a few drops of olive oil in there, and stay put for half an hour. Then take a 20ml syringe (without needle!) into the shower with you and give it a few gentle squirts. Job done.
posted by flabdablet at 12:23 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Water syringe and 3% hydrogen peroxide, peeps -- cleansing effervescence brought to you by the power of Catalase!
posted by lumensimus at 12:28 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I live and die by the graces of this miraculous device. Otherwise it would be once a year to the doctor with me, for my rootering.
posted by contessa at 12:30 AM on October 19, 2010


"Don't stick anything into your ears other than your elbows" is what my Dr. Grandfather used to say.
posted by chavenet at 12:59 AM on October 19, 2010


Hmm... I now feel the need to have my ears cleaned.
posted by abirdandaman at 1:12 AM on October 19, 2010


If you go to Chinatown for a haircut, when you're sitting, looking around as your hair gets cut, you can sometimes see, amongst the combs and things, a long skewer-like stick with a feather on the end of it.

I've been told that you can pay to have someone put that in your ear, and gently tickle your ear canal. There is not even the ostensible excuse of cleaning; it's purely designed to give you that incredible feeling that you get when you get a q-tip in exactly the right place, and you can't believe how satisfying it feels, and the rest of the world just melts away.

I told my brother, and he looked more disgusted than I would've expected. "It's basically paying someone to jack you off!", he said, even though I never had it done, I just asked the barber what the stick was for.
posted by surenoproblem at 1:38 AM on October 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ok, so I didn't read any of the articles or videos or whatever the links are, and my clock's all wonky from travel, and I was having a great evening until I came across this post and its replies.

Please don't ever post anything about ear wax again. For me. You may owe me a new laptop.

Ear wax is the only thing in medicine that makes me ill. And I've dealt with a lot of gross stuff. First of all, I grew up with dry, crumbly ear wax. Growing up, my brother once complained of some itching in his left ear. My pop took a look and found a giant dry nugget of ear wax, which he removed. In the course of its removal, that nugget scraped the ear canal and caused pain and a tiny amount of bleeding. It was horrifying. But my bro thought it was cool, for some reason, cuz, hey, free nugget(?).

Secondly, at some point in my youth I discovered that other people had moist ear wax. You know how fucking disgusting moist ear wax is? And then this shit gets packed in when they try to use Q-tips n stuff, like when musketeers or whatever would ram bullets down their rifles or something. Just ramming that moist shit into the inner ear, packing it in.

And then they can't hear. Of course they can't hear. I had a patient come in once complaining that he couldn't hear out of his left ear. So I tried to take a look in it with an otoscope, right? And the otoscope has this plastic cone part, and as per usual I place my pinky on his cheek and steady my hand, and approach the ear canal to take a look. Only I don't see shit.

I don't see shit cuz the plastic cone part sank into ear wax. That's right: moist ear wax packed in to the surface. What. The. Fuck.


Lemme take a break and say that the only thing that grosses me out in medicine is ear wax. Anything else could be emergent. Red poop? Blood. Black poop? Blood. Pus? Infection. Sputum? The same. The list goes on. Piss, shit, discharge, blood-- all this could point to something that could be really, really serious. Hell, the smell of any of these things which would knock most people out is enough to alarm me to think of potential medical disasters.

Ear wax? Not an emergency. Never emergent. For all I care, that crap can stay where it's found forever. But I had a duty to perform. This man is deaf in one ear.

So I grabbed an ear scoop (did you know there's a company that keeps sending me these free tiny ear scoops in the mail? It's like THEY KNOW) and started excavating. More and more of this yellow, brown, moist stuff came out. Insert, scoop, exit, scrape on gauze. Repeat. This shit was piling up on the gauze and the patient kept on wanted to see how much crap was coming out of his ear.

Then it got to the point where I just couldn't see for shit in his ear, so I made a mix of peroxide and saline and cut off the tip of an IV catheter and squirted the solution in with a syring. He held a small tray against his face, to collect the fluid coming out. Small bits would come out: a little skin, a little bit of ear wax. It's like... human soup. Or something. Like, you know, you could use a ladle and skim the floaty crap away.

This goes on for several minutes. And then POW! A giant, moist nugget popped out, whose size was so great that it was impossible to imagine coming from an ear. Then three things happened in rapid succession:
1. The patient jolted and exclaimed something like "HOLY CRAP I CAN HEAR EVERYTHING!"
2. I became extremely nauseated at the site and perceived smell of the nugget of ear wax
3. The tray he was holding against his ear tilted when he moved and spilled some fluid and the wax nugget floated off to god knows where.

I had to leave the room. Though I could not smell it, my brain was doing the thing brains do and filled in the missing details, and it filled in the lack of knowledge of the smell of moist ear wax with the most digusting and vile of odors. The patient was excited to see what came out and I told him it spilled out of the tray, and he started to look for it. I excused myself from the room to get some air.

On my return, he said he had found it, and showed it to me, smooshed in gauze, and I could only think about how the smell would've been much worse as he effectively increased the surface area of the nugget.


Anyway, whatever. The point is this: all the advice you hear about not putting anything smaller than your elbow into your ear? Follow it. Don't ram that shit in. Minimize the use of words "moist" and "nugget." They are both inherently disgusting, and worsen with repetition. If you must get your ear cleaned, use those drops that don't ever seem to do shit, or find a professional: this post probably provides good links, but I will not open any of them.

Oh yeah, and please, PLEASE don't stick sharp stuff into your ear. Or anything that's not sterile. Don't even get me started on the only time I've gotten an ear infection, whilst on vacation, when I asked my friend to get my some Q-tips when he went out, which he did, from the gym he worked out at, which he carried with him in the waistband of his gym shorts. Motherfucker didn't tell me until summin like day 4 of massive ear pain.
posted by herrdoktor at 1:42 AM on October 19, 2010 [219 favorites]


Man I feel so bad for going to the doctor for this now.
posted by contessa at 2:10 AM on October 19, 2010


HerrDoktor, I recommend not searching YouTube for "earwax removal" then.
posted by pharm at 2:12 AM on October 19, 2010


Man. Herrdoktor does NOT like ear wax. Much the way my friends respond when I tell them about my tonsilloliths...

For the record, my ear canal always seems wide enough that I feel like I can get the Q-tip in and behind whatever wax is in there. I may be completely delusional, but it seems to work for me.

Also, professional ear cleaning. Crazy. Wonder why they don't branch out into candling...
posted by disillusioned at 2:14 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just wish there was an easy way to clean the middle ear. I got an ear infection about 4 years ago, and every time I've got a cold since I can hear stuff sloshing around in there, as if I'm underwater.
posted by kersplunk at 2:37 AM on October 19, 2010


Ok, so I'm in Vegas for a conference and I can't get to sleep, and I'm supposed to get up in 4 hrs, so I keep trying to do stuff that'll get me tired, like go for a nice walk, but then I checked my phone, and then the blue, and now I can't stop thinking about tonsoliths.

I used to get them before I got my tonsils out. A friend of mine shamefully asked me about whether or not it's possible for bits of peanut to get stuck in the throat, cuz she occasionally was hawking up these bits of whitish stuff, especially after eating peanuts.

Now I knew she was talking about tonsoliths, but I didn't want to tell her that I, to, had gotten them in the past. Perhaps cruelly, I asked her to describe them to me, cuz hey, they could really be bits of peanut.

What she said and how she went about it is near universal, I think: first, describe them physically, skirting the grossness of them. Then, as the appearance of tonsoliths don't do them just disgusting justice they deserve, describe the smell. Finally, admit that yes, you smooshed them between your fingers. And then smelled your fingers.

But when two people who've had tonsoliths get around to talking about it, it's like both people coming out of the tonsolith closet: hey! I'm not alone! You're just like me, and we'll be ok! We're a gang of two, now, and there are sure to be others like us.

And yet we still feel uncomfortable with openly sharing this knowledge. Of tonsoliths, and smooshing, and of smelling them time and time again.

I'd like to meet someone who has never had the urge to smell one, get grossed out, smoosh it, and then SMELL AGAIN.

Not really.

Tonsoliths: human pearls?
posted by herrdoktor at 2:53 AM on October 19, 2010 [18 favorites]


I just wish there was an easy way to clean the middle ear.

Pseudefedrine plus guaifenesin. Used to be you could get Robitussin PE, which was the perfect combo for stuffy ears, but now you have to make the cocktail yourself. Mucinex is basically incredibly overpriced guaifenisin, but there are generic versions that are more reasonably priced.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:40 AM on October 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


five fresh fish: "As far as I know, ears are essentially self-cleaning. Perhaps irritating your ears makes them overproduce wax"

I never had any problems with ear wax, never had too much or to little, never had any blockage... but I love the feeling of inserting a Q-tip into my ear canal and just gently twirling it. I don't know if that's some kind of low-level masturbation, but it just feels good. The only thing that feels better is getting the water out my ear after swimming, by fluffing the head of a Q-tip up a bit and then pushing it in just far enough it wicks up the water.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 3:51 AM on October 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Clean your ears, people. Please. Ears are not self-cleaning. I say this with the passion of a man who had a distressing experience while getting hot and heavy with an... otherwise very attractive young lady, many years ago at a teenagers party.

You don't want to know. Figure it out. Take a wild guess. Just clean your ears. Please.
posted by Decani at 4:05 AM on October 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


I always wondered how ear wax gets compacted, but then again, mine cleans out with minimal attention and a wash cloth. I've never found a "nugget". Maybe I have self cleaning ears.

I did try the ancient answer for chapped lips, which is to smear earwax on your lip. It works, but mostly because licking your lips becomes so distressing that they get a chance to recover.
posted by Phalene at 4:41 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Be aware that asian earwax is not the same as european or african earwax - no, I'm not making this shit up. Asians tend to have crumbly, crystaline earwax, Europeans have moist, gooey, oily wax. The tools the ear-cleaners use for their local clients will get gummed up and useless if applied to a tourist, so don't do it. Most will be polite about it, but some may lose their cool if they have to spend their afternoon wiping westerner-ooze from their instruments.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:55 AM on October 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've had to go to the doctor to get earwax removed twice. The doctor told me to never use q-tips, because it just compacts it. (i didn't anyway, but still)

I eventually bought a plastic earwax scoop from CVS and a bulb to spray water. The combination of the two clears out earwax pretty well, and I haven't had to go back for about 8 years.
posted by empath at 5:31 AM on October 19, 2010


Earwax is the kind of thing that makes me say "ewww!" but with a big grin on my face. The fun kind of gross.

I used to Q-Tip my ears daily when I was a teenager. That worked great, until I woke up one morning feeling like I had water sloshing around in my ear canal. I spent all of breakfast pacing around, tilting and shaking my head, and wondering how I could have gotten water in my ear. I eventually managed to shake out the watery feeling, leaving a hard, pea-sized chunk of earwax on the kitchen floor.

I immediately stopped the daily swabbing, and - apart from the same thing happening to my other ear the next week - the giant chunks never came back. I still tell people the chunk story if they like grossness, because it remains among my body's greatest gross hits, along with the time my toenail fell off and the ingrown hair that managed to grow in perfectly straight line just underneath my skin and reached an inch before I plucked it.

Also when I was a teenager, I had a cat with his own greatest gross hits. Many cats love the taste of human earwax for some reason, and I've known a couple who will steal dirty swabs from the bathroom trash. Sparky's ears made their own wax, big beige globs of it. (This is different from the crusty, powdery, dark wax that signifies ear mites; I used to have a cat with that, too.) Being the good cat-owner that I was, I removed what I could with a tissue, and I found that my earwax-cleaning enjoyment wasn't limited to my own earwax. Shortly afterward, I found out that Sparky's earwax-eating enjoyment wasn't limited to human earwax. So, yeah, I used to feed my cat his own earwax, and he liked it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:22 AM on October 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


Oh yea that looks sanitary.

*wretch*
posted by stormpooper at 6:23 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


My own ear discharges, Sir, are gigantic and have no more odor than a hot biscuit.
posted by kcds at 6:23 AM on October 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


As someone who has a history of actual partial hearing loss requiring surgery, followed by a terrifying experience in which I thought it had become suddenly deaf -- which turned out to be a giant ball of impacted earwax -- I find this entire thread disgustingly awesome.

As many people, I used q-tips in the improper manner.

And as many people, I had to go to the Dr. to deal with my "sudden hearing loss"

Perhaps different than most, I had a ginormous ball of earwax forcefully removed by forceps. Note that it was solid enough for that to work! The rush of sudden hearing followed by the shock of seeing a huge ball of wax, triumphantly gripped by my Dr -- who was extremely proud of his work -- is something that I will never forget. He cheerfully showed it off, then popped it in some sort of vial or bag and whisked it away somewhere. I often wonder where it ended up.

The best part about it was his progression from tool to tool, muttering under his breath the whole time. It was like any mechanic who tries more and more brute force tools, except it was my ear.


I still use q-tips wrong.
posted by MysticMCJ at 7:02 AM on October 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


This was fascinating. And disgusting. So um... thanks. I think.
posted by zarq at 7:16 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


My father had lost hearing in one of his ears for maybe ten or fifteen years. Surprisingly because he was married to a nurse who rushed us off to the dr for pretty much everything, he never went and had it checked out, and chalked it up to his work environment, which was full of loud saws that never really turned off.

Then he had a physical, his first one in a very long time. The dr was checking him out, going through all the routine stuff, when he looked in my father's ear. "You having trouble hearing out of this ear?" he asked.

"Yeah, for a while now."

So the dr grabs an earwash kit, one with a bulb full of water. He hits my father with this a couple of times, and has him holding a metal tray up to his ear for drainage.

My father hears a metallic "plink." "Oh _______," the dr says, looking in the tray. He held it out to him so he could see what it was.

A pencil eraser.
posted by nevercalm at 7:20 AM on October 19, 2010 [34 favorites]


An ex of mine actually had to go to the doctor twice because of ear problems. The second time she went in, he did a more thorough job cleaning than the first time and said: "Oh my, what's this?" and plucked out a piece of bar napkin.

She had used a bar napkin as a ear plug at a bar, and forgot about it apparently. Or pieces of it got stuck in there. It was in there for about 2 months, total I think.
posted by empath at 7:24 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Listen to me, I can't hear you
posted by flabdablet at 7:27 AM on October 19, 2010


Rusty, The Wonder Dog, had ear wax in both ears, brown, gross, disgusting glop. I was elected to clean it out.

Who knew that was going to be part of dog ownership? What the fuck.

As follows: Put a piece of kleenix or tp around my finger, put my finger into her ear, scootch it in some, and then she would scootch her head this way and that, burying my finger into the side of her head. Then it was for me to scootch my finger around some in there, then pull it out, with this gross-o disgusting tissue.

Repeat until it came out clean and dry.

Have you ever had a dog that just rolls around almost in ecstasies when you scratch them low on their back, just there at the end of their spine, ever seen how they roll their eyes and damn near drool and act orgasm-y and stuff? THAT'S how Rusty would act the whole time I'm douching out her ears, minor ecstasies, schnuffling, twisting around, dog-moaning, like I'm finger-banging her dang head. Fuck. I still sortof can't believe that piece of being her partner in crime, I'm mildly horrified that I've written it out here, sortof terrified that I'll hit the "Post Comment" button. If you're reading this, it's a sign of victory over fear, the greatness of the human soul...
posted by dancestoblue at 7:42 AM on October 19, 2010 [16 favorites]


> HerrDoktor, I recommend not searching YouTube for "earwax removal" then.

Aw, come on. It doesn't even bother some guy named Frank enough to put down his Funyuns.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:42 AM on October 19, 2010


Holy crow, that "Frank" link leads to some truly horrifying "suggested videos."
posted by nevercalm at 7:49 AM on October 19, 2010


Don't clean your ears too forcefully, they're a wonderful natural habitat for our eight-legged friends.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 7:55 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't forget the roaches!
posted by Burhanistan at 8:02 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Don't forget the roaches

NONONONONONONONOOOOOOOOOGOODGODNOOOOOOOOOOOOOIMDONEWITHMEFITODAY
posted by nevercalm at 8:08 AM on October 19, 2010 [14 favorites]


You think earwax is bad? In high school, my Spanish teacher got a bee stuck in his ear. A live bee flew in and he had to go to the hospital to get it out. He brought it into class in a jar to show us.
posted by millipede at 8:11 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Be aware that asian earwax is not the same as european or african earwax

This is apparently also tied to perspiration. Those with European or African earwax also have stinkier and more abundant sweat than those with Asian earwax, which explains why foreigners in Asia can never find antiperspirant.
posted by msbrauer at 8:23 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


> Those with European or African earwax also have stinkier and more abundant sweat than those with Asian earwax, which explains why foreigners in Asia can never find antiperspirant.

Huh? Asia is pretty huge. I've seen antiperspirant sold from Japan to Indonesia. I've also been around plenty of smelly and sweaty Asian people. Let's not even go there.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:37 AM on October 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, the odor of your sweat is very much tied to diet.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:38 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't forget the roaches!

OH GOD WHY DID I CLICK ON THAT?!
posted by billybunny at 8:55 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Clean your ears, people. Please. Ears are not self-cleaning"

The healthy human ear is in fact self-cleaning. Wax is produced only in the outer half or so of the external ear canal. In that same outer half, there are mechanisms that work to slowly propel the wax out; however, once wax is pushed deeper (like by a Q-tip), the ear can't rid itself of the wax and it can slowly build up. The best way to maintain clean ears is to let water from the shower rinse them out daily.

I'm an ENT resident and I give the "Q-tips are evil" lecture to patients several times a week - usually when I'm digging out a big hunk of wax that's been there for years (which is truly a very satisfying procedure for both parties involved). That said, Q-tips sure do feel good, don't they?
posted by robstercraw at 9:11 AM on October 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


According to Wikipedia: "Many types of whales have a build-up of earwax which increases with time; the size of the deposit is sometimes the only way to determine the age of whales that do not have teeth"
posted by anniecat at 10:03 AM on October 19, 2010


I often wonder where it ended up.

As an ingredient in Enzyte.
posted by stormpooper at 10:14 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


A comedone extractor works very well. Be very careful. In a pinch, the cap from a disposable pen works pretty well.

Here's a nice video of ear wax removal. The internetz are full of them, a quick Google search away. The linked one has some awesome music to go with it.
posted by Xoebe at 10:27 AM on October 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


A few months ago, the wife says I'm going deaf in my left ear. Partly because I couldn't hear the giant beehive one day when on a walk. Partly because I can't clearly hear what she says. (My excuse that we're married so I'm supposed to ignore her.) Also, I get exposed to lots of loud equipment at work.

Luckily, my neighbor is an ENT and I make an appointment with him at his clinic. Then spend a creepy afternoon watching Youtube wax removal videos. I head to appointment thinking that my ENT neighbor's going to yank out this huge plug in left ear. He takes a look.

Nothing. I'd wish he had found the biggest, smelliest, bug-infested plug of earwax ever. Nope. Seems that I'm slowly going deaf in my left ear.
posted by Cog at 10:31 AM on October 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


As an ingredient in Enzyte.

"Smiling Bob may have been happy, but many customers were not."
posted by zarq at 10:35 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why oh why did I keep reading this thread?

/squicked
posted by emjaybee at 12:12 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Was there any consensus as to if any of the ear cleaners were actually scammers?
posted by Theta States at 12:52 PM on October 19, 2010


Was there any consensus as to if any of the ear cleaners were actually scammers?

That's the Lonely Planet wisdom. The story is that the ear cleaners may do somewhat of an OK job, but supposedly they use a sleight-of-hand trick to also scrape up some gunk that they keep elsewhere, and then present it to you as if it came from your ear.

This would be easy enough for them to do if you think about it - you're hardly in a position to see what their hands are up to all the time.

Then again, the guys who hassle you in Connaught Place or at the Gateway of India might just be scammers anyway, and perhaps there are more professional ear cleaners elsewhere.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:13 PM on October 19, 2010


they could really be bits of peanut.

I sometimes have tonsoliths and also occasionally get bits of peanut stuck in my tonsils, so it could happen.

Let's not even go there.

The more clinical names for what's up are apocrine (oily, can get stinky when broken down by bacteria on the skin's surface) and eccrine (water + salty, not stinky) sweat. There's medical literature, oft repeated, that says that Asian and Native American people tend to have fewer apocrine glands than Caucasian or Black people. The Straight Dope has some explanation.
posted by jessamyn at 2:46 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


el_lupino is traveling, so I get to tell this story for him:

He realizes he's having trouble hearing out of one ear. Makes an appointment with the (obviously non-herrdoktor) doctor. Doctor comes in, el_lupino describes the trouble. Doctor picks up the otoscope, and says, "Well, it's one of two things: either it's a tumor, or it's earwax." (pause) "Earwax!"

I think that's called "playing the odds."
posted by jocelmeow at 2:51 PM on October 19, 2010


Wow this thread really got way weird. What is wrong with me that I just don't have issues with things with earwax? Er, wait, did I get that backwards?
posted by sammyo at 4:13 PM on October 19, 2010


What if I mentioned that pet rats (who often get carried around on your shoulders, like pirates' parrots) like to snuffle around inside your ear - I think licking up the earwax...
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:21 PM on October 19, 2010


Xoebe ...OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG. Why did I click that link????!!!!! Nonononononononononooooooooooo.

And I do not have a weak stomach but...dang. For some reason, the soundtrack made it way worse.
posted by jeanmari at 5:05 PM on October 19, 2010


The thing I don't get is: how come blue cheese is a food when earwax isn't?
posted by flabdablet at 5:24 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Earwax hasn't been cultured with mold.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:36 PM on October 19, 2010


But it could be.
posted by flabdablet at 5:37 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


A girl I went to high school with told me that her mother had an awful pain in her hear after swimming in the ocean, and when she finally went to the doctor, he removed a three-inch-long eel from her ear.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 6:34 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's how you get eels up insider yer; finding an entrance where they can.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:41 PM on October 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


Tonsiliths, huh? I never knew those stinky bastards had an actual name.
posted by Curious Artificer at 6:47 PM on October 19, 2010


How to clean your ears.

Amusing as it is, it does have some good advice on technique that I applied to my own ear rinse using a rubber bulb.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:38 PM on October 19, 2010


> And I do not have a weak stomach but...dang. For some reason, the soundtrack made it way worse.

It might also have been the shaky camera. It's like you're going on a magical mystery tour through the tunnel of goo.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:51 PM on October 19, 2010


Do people with q-tip impacted earwax have super tiny little ear-holes? I stick a q-tip in my ear and there's plenty of clearance.

Yes, I'm Asian and used to have dry waxy earstuff that I (or parental units) dug out with a small hammered spoon until I started using q-tips after showers. After I started soaking up the ear canal moisture, I never got earwax buildups again.

Why, yes.. I have huge gaping ginormous nostrils, too. Not to mention that blowhole.
posted by porpoise at 8:21 PM on October 19, 2010


Xoebe: "In a pinch, the cap from a disposable pen works pretty well."

No no NO. My dad used to clean out his ears with pen caps and I had a bad habit of chewing on my pen caps... *blarf*
posted by IndigoRain at 9:33 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The thing I don't get is: how come blue cheese is a food when earwax isn't?

Heh. That depends on where you are..

A few years back, I'm teaching my class of disabled students inside the grounds of a Buddhist temple in Phnom Penh. I'm hanging back after class one day, sorting out my books, cleaning the board, and making casual conversation with one of my brighter students (let's call him Wai). Wai's from a family of weavers, so he has a vastly overgrown little fingernail on his right hand for grasping threads. I've got my back turned to him while we talk, so I'm not all that aware of what he's doing.

Teacher, does your country have many kinds of fruit?

"Teacher isn't a term of address, Wai, but yes, we have many kinds of fruit."

Do you have pineapples?

"Yes Wai, we have pineapples."

Do you have bananas?

"Yes, we have bananas"

And grapes, teacher? Do you have grapes?

"Yes, Wai. I am from a place where grapes are grown both for eating, and making wine."

Teacher, when I go to Psar Chas [the Old Market], I see many boxes of apples from Australia. Do they really come from Australia?

"Yes, Wai."

They are usually green apples. Are all apples from Australia green?

I turn at this point, and realize that Wai has his enormously elongated little finger nail stuck all the way into his right ear. I decide that it isn't relevant to the conversation.

"No Wai, we also have red apples. And sometimes yellow apples."

Red apples like this?

he says, pulling his fingernail from his ear with an enormous gob of wax on the end.

I have no idea what to say at this point, but I imagine my face gives my dismay away, because Wai pops the "red apple" straight in his mouth and begins chewing.

His face breaks into the most exaggerated and cheerfully radiant smile I have ever seen.

And he says:

Teacher, I love red apples...

In follow up conversation with Wai and the rest of the class, I determined that ear wax was good to eat, boogers not so good (but acceptable on a bad day), and eye boogers absolutely not.

Yes, I taught them the phrase "eye booger".

I still don't know whether they were collectively pulling my leg or not

posted by Ahab at 9:56 PM on October 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


> I determined that ear wax was good to eat

Australian politicians agree!
posted by Burhanistan at 10:10 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


herrdoktor: "This goes on for several minutes. And then POW! A giant, moist nugget popped out, whose size was so great that it was impossible to imagine coming from an ear. "

I regret to inform you that I have been the patient in similar situations at least three times. My ear wax, she no leave my ear. I'm sorry for making you puke that one time.

I try to get soap and water into the blocked ear for a few days, and then I disregard your advice about elbows and use one of my selection of ear-wax-removal tools, carefully, and chunks of wax the size of babies come out.

I would say I spend a total of three days a year deaf in one ear or the other due to wax. Lots of times it hurts.
posted by mwhybark at 10:40 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whoa! This one is like a tiny little bullfight.
posted by flabdablet at 5:12 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I once had a haircut in Thailand with a guy stinking metal scrapers into my ear while a woman was doing pedicure on the opposite foot. It was ticklish and I had to concentrate really hard hold my head still. Scary.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:46 AM on October 20, 2010


For some reason, I don't produce ear wax. This thread makes me sad

:(
posted by Ouisch at 11:31 AM on October 20, 2010


Maybe one day you can grow tonsoliths and experience satisfaction that way?
posted by Theta States at 11:40 AM on October 20, 2010


I have it on good authority that if you put a little piece of peanut or carrot in one of your tonsils, you can grow your own. Everyone has an opportunity for gross body stuff!
posted by jessamyn at 2:39 PM on October 20, 2010


> I have it on good authority that if you put a little piece of peanut or carrot in one of your tonsils, you can grow your own.

Kind of like nucleating oysters for cultured pearls!
posted by Burhanistan at 2:41 PM on October 20, 2010


Yeah, I used to get tonsoliths myself (I'm Asian). I remember when I was a kid, I went to the doctor about it, since I really had no idea what was going on, and he just shrugged and said it wasn't anything. But now I know, thanks to Mefi!
posted by adrianhon at 3:39 PM on October 20, 2010


This is fascinating. I've worn hearing aids since I was a young kid, so I'm very acquainted with ear wax. However, I've used Q-tips for years and never had any issues with impacted wax. I think it's a YMMV issue.

Little known fact: Cats LOVE the taste of ear wax, which makes leaving hearing aids out around cats very dangerous because they've been known to chew on the ear molds (the rubbery part that goes in your ear).
posted by autoclavicle at 11:13 PM on October 20, 2010


Reading has made me very, very queasy, and yet, I couldn't stop reading.
posted by theora55 at 7:13 AM on October 21, 2010


I'm on a bus. I'm in the back. My ear itches like crazy. I have a q-tip. Let's just say I have permanent ringing in my right ear. I was forty when I did this.
posted by mecran01 at 6:38 AM on October 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


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