It's bad for you. So why does it feel so good?
September 12, 2015 8:33 PM   Subscribe

Doctors often say that you shouldn't use cotton swabs like Q-Tips to clean out your ears because you risk damaging the ear drum. But in that case, why does it feel so good? After all, people around the world have been using picks, candles, rakes, scoops, and swabs to clear out the wax for centuries. Turns out that while a build-up of wax can cause deafness, manually scooping that wax often shoves it further down the ear canal and makes everything worse. Worse, removing that wax makes your ears feel itchy--which makes every go-around with the old Q-Tip feel that much more satisfying. Previously.
posted by sciatrix (167 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do I have the strength to stop?
posted by chapps at 8:38 PM on September 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


Can I just do it 'till I need glasses?
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:40 PM on September 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


This is why I'm a Q-Tip-atheist. Or maybe I'm a naturalist. All I know is, I leave my ears alone, they feel great, and every now and then a huge gob of wax falls out and grosses out my wife. Win-win-win!
posted by TheBraveLittleSock at 8:43 PM on September 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


Doctors often say that you shouldn't use cotton swabs like Q-Tips to clean out your ears because you risk damaging the ear drum.

Fuck that.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:45 PM on September 12, 2015 [27 favorites]


As I have always said, THEN WHY DO THEY MAKE THEM SO SKINNY.
posted by Miko at 8:46 PM on September 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


Once you go hydrogen peroxide you'll never go back.
posted by escabeche at 8:48 PM on September 12, 2015 [23 favorites]


My ENT gave me permission! NYAH NYAH NYAH.
posted by wintersweet at 8:53 PM on September 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


The picture just reminded me of this kid in second grade who used to eat his earwax and I feel very nauseated now.
posted by discopolo at 8:53 PM on September 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean, peroxide is like a vision of the future where you're like "Google nanobots, go into my ear canal and shake everything loose," except without the part where they eventually take over your brain and make you link everything to your G+ account.
posted by escabeche at 8:54 PM on September 12, 2015 [67 favorites]


But even if putting peroxide in your ear did link everything to your G+ account, it would still be worth it. That's how much better it is than a Q-tip.
posted by escabeche at 8:54 PM on September 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


It's been a lot of years since I had ear wax problems, but a couple of times it got so bad that I had to go to the clinic and have the nurses flush out the wax. Having an eraser-sized chunk of wax come loose and relieve the pressure felt so intensely good that, almost two decades later, I still get a shiver up my spine thinking about it.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:56 PM on September 12, 2015 [35 favorites]


Fuck that.

YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO SPEAK UP A BIT, DEARIE.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 8:56 PM on September 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


You have to be careful with that hydrogen peroxide in the ear routine.


Detergent drops such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide may also aid in the removal of wax. Rinsing the ear canal with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) results in oxygen bubbling off and water being left behind—wet, warm ear canals make good incubators for growth of bacteria

Just use a couple of drops.

I'm pretty sure I've also read about a hard no on the H2O2, but just a couple of drops, use sparingly, don't do it everyday
posted by discopolo at 9:01 PM on September 12, 2015


Penn Jillette on how using q-tips ("the devil's little cotton pitchfork") led to him needing surgery for the hole in his eardrum that was "grow[ing] wild skin all over the inside of my head."
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:04 PM on September 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


DON'T TAKE AWAY MY GREATEST PLEASURE

sobs, grasping Q-tip in angry fist
posted by heurtebise at 9:05 PM on September 12, 2015 [16 favorites]


Having an eraser-sized chunk of wax come loose and relieve the pressure felt so intensely good that, almost two decades later, I still get a shiver up my spine thinking about it.

I have heard enough stories from friends about this over the years that I was mildly excited when I went in this summer with a blocked-up ear. The Dr. flushed my ear, and got some stuff out, but nothing like the shocking amalgamation others talk about, and it didn't fix my hearing. She said I had a cold and that was that. No earwax catharsis for me.

As a frequent swimmer's ear victim, I do use Debrox. Apparently it's some form of peroxide. Seems effective.
posted by Miko at 9:08 PM on September 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah wait until you have anaphylaxis allergies and get itchy red hives inside your ear canal (and in other uh.... hard-to-scratch internal areas)... fuck waterboarding, all you need to torture me is a PB&J sandwich and a pair of handcuffs.

If you really want to see some AMAZINGLY gross things issue forth from your skull, though, you gotta get a Neti pot!

"Nothing's coming out, this thing doesn't work, I'm just pouring water up my nose"
(2 minutes later)
"OH GOD"
(4.5 minutes later)
"HOLY....SHIT....."
posted by jake at 9:15 PM on September 12, 2015 [22 favorites]


If we can't use Q-tips we can always use Super Soakers.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 9:18 PM on September 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


If you have ear wax problems, this is a gift from the gods.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:18 PM on September 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


I always wonder what percentage of Q-Tips® sold end up in ears. Sure they say on the package not to do it, and their website has all these usage like fixing makeup or cleaning a baby's toes but at the end of the day, I think most of them are being stuck into ears. I'm sure Unilever knows that X% of their profits are coming from a group of people that may hurt themselves.

I admit I do it and it is bliss. I've read how bad it is for you and still do it, but take care not to try and pack wax deeper into the canal. I don't apply pressure or shove it too far into my ear. It just feels so good.
posted by birdherder at 9:20 PM on September 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


this is a gift from the gods.

That's exactly what the doc used on me. It seemed shockingly violent for people who are always hysterically lecturing you not to put stuff in your ear because the fragile ear parts.
posted by Miko at 9:21 PM on September 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I find it hard to believe that people can't learn to use them safely. I've only been using two a day (one per ear) for the last 30 years of my life after getting out of the shower. No ruptured anything, just clean, dry ears. Never seen any wax lumps.
posted by Snowflake at 9:26 PM on September 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


There is always a point during a multi-day-long canoe trip, or an equally long backcountry mountain hike, when the heat, rain, cold, bugs, companions, exhaustion, pain, dirt, grease, and stink become just too much to bear. You know you have to keep going, but your mind and body are screaming out for a hot shower, some decent food, and soft bed to rest in.

But jam a fuckin Q-tip into your ear and really work that fucker around and suddenly all your discomforts and frustrations fade away. You feel clean. You feel relaxed. You've relieved itches and aches. It's downright euphoric. And hope has been restored.

Those tiny waterproof containers made for matchsticks? Mine carries Q-tips. It's the one piece of modern technology that I will never leave behind when escaping from civilization.
posted by Kabanos at 9:27 PM on September 12, 2015 [43 favorites]


If we can't use Q-tips we can always use Super Soakers.

I love that paper. Particularly the Footnotes:

Disclaimer: Despite what bush-mad physicians may get up to on their private islands, CMAJ by no means endorses this particular application of the Super Soaker Max-Whatever. Do not try this at home.

Acknowledgements: The authors would like to particularly thank Mr. Charlie Bannister, age 4, for his gracious loan of his Super Soaker Max-D 5000 for this pressing clinical and social need.

Competing interests:
None of the authors holds stock in the Super Soaker Max-D 5000, water pistols or any devices of that kind.

posted by kisch mokusch at 9:27 PM on September 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Once you go hydrogen peroxide you'll never go back.

*peaceful bubbling noises.*

Ahhhhhhhhh
posted by Drinky Die at 9:29 PM on September 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Not having earwax issues, I'm wondering: Is this is just a thick fingered problem, mainly suffered by men? Or does the ear canal start to narrow as you go in, so that you guys are sticking the q tips in too deep for your little fingers? How deep does the q tip go in, anyway? Should we all start doing this for the high?
posted by serena15221 at 9:34 PM on September 12, 2015


For whatever reason I was not taught to clean my ears when I was growing up. Then, one day in university I was talking to a pretty girl, and a big ball of the stuff fell out of my ear onto my shoulder. Agh!

Using Q-Tips (and they have to be Q-Tips) is now a habit 3-4 times a week. But I have easily irritated skin, so I try to be careful...
posted by Nevin at 9:36 PM on September 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can't you just use a washcloth?
posted by persona au gratin at 9:39 PM on September 12, 2015


Oh yeah can we talk for a minute about how much off-brand Q-tips SUCK and are worse than having nothing at all? I'm usually an off-brand value shopper kinda guy, but when it comes to ear scratchers I am paying that 15 extra cents or whatever to get the real shit.

Ugh, just thinking about the generic ones, with the stupid goddamn bendy sticks, and the cotton that is either too hard or too soft to gently scratch the itch, and you end up poking your ear drum with a hollow plastic tube?

My hearing is literally my livelihood, I shouldn't enjoy this so much. But hey, Beethoven, right? Cold dead hands.
posted by jake at 9:40 PM on September 12, 2015 [57 favorites]


I have a little glass vial of hydrogen peroxide I dip the Q-tips in before I swab out my ears.
posted by jamjam at 9:41 PM on September 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


You guys, did you know there's a whole genre of YouTube videos of people cleaning each other's ears, or rubbing q-tips against the microphone to role play that they are cleaning your ears? Some people (but not me, of course, because it's WEIRD) find listening to those videos just as enjoyable as actually using the q-tips.
posted by lollusc at 9:51 PM on September 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


I got swimmer's ear once. That really annoying feeling that your ear is full of water and your hearing is severely muffled. My father, a paediatric doctor, syringed my ear (irrigating or flush the ear with a weak sodium bicarbonate solution using a syringe) and a huge piece of wax came out (pea sized). Probably swollen from the pool water. But since then, I am a huge fan of preventative wax maintenance. Q tips around the ear canal (not jammed all the way in!), and occasional ear drops to loosen and soften wax and Q tips to remove the excess wax. But you can also ignore it, wait until it get bad and get syringed by a medical professional at some obscene cost.
posted by appleyar at 9:55 PM on September 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are also numerous youtube videos of people with horrendously goobered up ears getting the crud extracted with little metal dinguses. They're oddly entrancing.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:57 PM on September 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh man, I have a touch of exzema in my left ear, and scratching it (often loosening largeish and satisfying flakes of skin) is a terrible habit that I will not give up.

Especially since everytime I see my doctor and ask her about my ear (totally hoping there's some giant waxball or something in there to otherwise explain the itchiness/provide relief upon extraction) she says it's FINE. Which is both aggravating and, uh, a tacit encouragment that I can continue with my gross ear-scratching ways.
posted by TwoStride at 9:59 PM on September 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


I always wonder what percentage of Q-Tips® sold end up in ears.

I use them for ears and keyboard cleanings. H2O2 for the former, and rubbing alcohol for the latter.
posted by Deoridhe at 9:59 PM on September 12, 2015


Or, as the Qrate Kid learned, "Wax in, wax out."
posted by Kabanos at 10:00 PM on September 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


You people with itchy ears all probably have cockroaches embedded in them, clawing at your ear canals with their sharp little legs as they prepare to lay their eggs.

But yeah hydrogen peroxide does feel like you're wetting the inside of your ear with liquid MDMA. So good.
posted by item at 10:12 PM on September 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thanks a lot for that image, item. Thanks. A. Lot.
posted by chapps at 10:18 PM on September 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


Can the Mythbusters not puke while they make an ear wax candle? Seriously, 47 seconds of video you don't want to watch (and does the candle work? [text only])

I also have heard of the Ototek Loop which has a stiff plastic ribbon to scrape out the ear wax and supposedly can't cause injury.
posted by ShooBoo at 10:38 PM on September 12, 2015


I'm somehow reminded of the Night Gallery episode "The Caterpillar" by this thread.
posted by Catblack at 10:43 PM on September 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


And the real horror stories are that someone's cleaning their ear out with a Q-tip, and someone happens to hit their elbow, and that Q-tip goes through the ear drum into the middle ear.

That's an exact quote from one of the links, and it's like--okay, so, don't do this because a horrible freak accident could happen? I know more people who've been in car accidents (a lot) than have had this happen (zero). It seems like this person would probably also disapprove of my neti pot and my tonsil irrigation, both of which have saved me from chronic illness. But even if it only feels good... this seems more worthy of a "be careful with this as befits sticking a cotton swab into a hole that's full of nerves and very near your brain" than a "never do this". It's like the dermatologists who go past "don't use tanning beds and avoid sunburns" and launch straight into "if you show any sign of color in the summer, that's sun damage and you're going to get cancer."
posted by Sequence at 10:45 PM on September 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


But you can also ignore it, wait until it get bad and get syringed by a medical professional at some obscene cost.

Why don't people just syringe themselves, either preventatively or when things get impacted? It's not like it's a completed procedure.
posted by aka burlap at 10:50 PM on September 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


You people with itchy ears all probably have cockroaches embedded in them

aaaaa oh gods. I thought the reference in the Amazon description of "Doctor Easy Elephant Ear Wash System" to removing insects was a joke. I guess not.

Now I'm going to have to learn to sleep in earmuffs.
posted by orchidfox at 10:55 PM on September 12, 2015


Overuse of H2O2 is a bad time. The itching. You want to crush your head.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:57 PM on September 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I would not wish "waking up with a spider having crawled into your ear" upon anyone, let alone twice. But we all have our burdens to bear. YOU DO NOT KNOW FEAR UNTIL YOU HEAR THE SCRATCHING COMING FROM INSIDE YOUR OWN HEAD.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:58 PM on September 12, 2015 [24 favorites]


this thread took a horrible fucking turn and you are all ON NOTICE
posted by poffin boffin at 11:00 PM on September 12, 2015 [100 favorites]


Sometimes I like to start off real slow, right after the shower, and just ease it in, and lay it gently on the tips of the hairs and listen as the cotton soaks up all the water... and then...

THEN I CAN'T RESIST AND I BEGIN TO JIGGLE IT LIKE MAD and I'm done in seconds.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:00 PM on September 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


Is this is just a thick fingered problem, mainly suffered by men? Or does the ear canal start to narrow as you go in, so that you guys are sticking the q tips in too deep for your little fingers?

What's funny is I use the Q-tips (brand-name only, jake is so effing right) occasionally after showering, and very carefully wipe a bunch of dirt/smog out of the outer loop of my ear and nearly nothing out of the canal itself. Then, later in the day it itches and I stick my pinky finger up in there and gigantic flakes of wax come out. I don't know what's going on there. Maybe cockroaches.

How deep does the q tip go in, anyway?
I stick the Q-tip pretty far in there, though I try to avoid brushing them against my ear drums. Focus is towards the bottom of the canal, dredging it from the inside-out.

Should we all start doing this for the high?
No way! Smoke weed if you want a high.
posted by carsonb at 11:02 PM on September 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


blue_beetle: "If you have ear wax problems, this is a gift from the gods."

So basically it is an ear enema.
posted by Mitheral at 11:10 PM on September 12, 2015


Admit it: you, too, ran and got a qtip to stick down your ear canal while reading this post.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:13 PM on September 12, 2015 [14 favorites]


I just use a cotton pad or ball dipped in peroxide to clean the outside of the ear so gunk doesn't build up. I try to leave the inside alone -- though I often unconsciously seem to go in there with fingers if something's getting itchy or irritated.

What I wonder though, is why is it bad to use Q-tips because they'll push wax into your ears and explode your eardrums, but it's okay to insert foam earplugs?
posted by Peregrine Pickle at 11:14 PM on September 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I've pulled a lot of nasty ass crud out of people's ears but in my career, I've seen like one or two cases of self induced tympanic membrane rupture which is incredibly painful yes but typically heals on its own only rarely requiring surgery. Considering like 80% of us use Qtips daily, I'd say they're pretty harmless.

The problem is people who never clean and then start to feel plugged up and then get the bright idea to stick a Qtip in there and really pack it in.

Of course I tow the party line on this professionally. Don't put anything in your ear. Ear wax is there for ...um, reasons. To trap dirt maybe?

Here's what I actually do. Every morning: wash cloth with soap in the shower on the outer ear, gentle Qtip when you get out, not too deep or two aggressive. If you get pain or discharge, put a mixture of hydrocortisone and neosporin on the swab for a few days. After the age of 42, I started using a hair trimmer in there every week or so. Never use ear buds.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:30 PM on September 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


oh man, as someone who has had many horrific earwax experiences, including:
-waking up one morning as a teenager with my hair glued to my pillowcase (and initially thinking it was blood and I was dying in a very metal and gross way) by overnight-leaked earwax
-having to get the clinic-performed irrigation over two hour-long sessions (and oh god that shit HURT, none of the catharsis associated with ear cleaning, just pain and pressure and dizziness)
...I can't talk up bamboo culottes enough. I don't know why, but they seem to work better for me than Q-Tips, which provide some temporary relief but tend to pack down the wax over time. It might be some actual mechanical advantage, it might be placebo, it might be that one is just more inclined to be careful when it's a terrifying wood hook you're sticking in your skull instead of a friendly looking cotton-ball-on-a-stick. But yes, culotte once a week or so (once a day if there's blockage, with Debrox after each scraping to help soften for the next day) and life is easier.
posted by kagredon at 11:33 PM on September 12, 2015


this thread took a horrible fucking turn and you are all ON NOTICE

I won't go into specific details about this one Jezebel article I read the other day then, but the lesson the author learned from her adventure: don't let your hairy cats sleep on your bed and then have sex on that bed because cat hair can end up in places you wish it didn't. Like tribbles.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 11:40 PM on September 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


So this isn't pleasant to admit, but I'm wondering how many people have the same problem.

If i don't use qtips regularly I'll get earwax on my earbuds all the time, sometimes quite a bit. Shower washing does nothing to prevent this, obviously.

I'm thinking this is not a unique problem and the cross-section of people who don't use qtips and do use earbuds must be quite small.
posted by dreamlanding at 11:56 PM on September 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can the Mythbusters not puke while they make an ear wax candle?

I... did not parse this correctly before clicking. *gag*
posted by vespertine at 12:36 AM on September 13, 2015


Wasn't every one told "Don't put anything in your ears but your elbows"?


Are you trying it?

Seriously?
posted by Cranberry at 12:38 AM on September 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I can't believe no one has mentioned bic biro lids, which are like insects to my orchid.
posted by yaxu at 1:07 AM on September 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


Pepsi Q
posted by univac at 1:20 AM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Q tips around the ear canal (not jammed all the way in!)

This, so much. I think doctors say "don't use Q-tips" because some dummies just jam them in as far at they can. You just rotate around the rim, basically, and you're not compacting anything.
posted by zardoz at 1:32 AM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


But what if someone chops off your face while you're q-tipping your ears.
posted by rhizome at 1:51 AM on September 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


All my life (think this is/was a local thing from where I come from) the curved end of hair grips to scoop out the wax.
posted by Wordshore at 2:03 AM on September 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


FFS, why not use a potato knife and be done with it?
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 2:07 AM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


As a side point, has anyone else noted how utterly vile their earwax tastes, even when drunk? Um, asking for a friend.
posted by Wordshore at 2:12 AM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wordshore is in his lab with Igor. They are both furiously drunk. A storm is brewing outside. A crackle of lightning!
WORDSHORE
(Jubilant)
This time, Igor (hic), we have succeeded! Fuck those morons who laughed at us at scientist camp! Bring me the (burp) vat!
Igor heads to the cupboard and opens it. Inside are two tubs marked with their names. He picks up the tub marked 'Igor'.
WORDSHORE
Mine, not yours, you imbecile.
With a sad face Igor returns his golden harvest and instead dutifully brings over the tub marked with the name of his master. Wordshore opens the tub of cultivated wax and places it gently on the lab table under a chrome ball attached by a series of wires to a gantry at the top of the laboratory. Wordshore peers into the ball, his face wide and distorted and chuckles with drunken glee. He makes a face. The face moons back at him.

He straightens quickly.
WORDSHORE
Stand back!
And he pulls a lever. Lightning flows into the tub of wax from the chrome ball. Deformed caged animals cower and cry.

It is done. Wordshore releases the lever, dips his finger into the orange mess, and tastes. His face crinkles and erupts into rage.
WORDSHORE
For the love for all that is Holy it still tastes like shit!
(On Igor's cow eyes)
Okay, okay - let's try yours next.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 2:57 AM on September 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


fine ban q-tips you jerks. i guess we will have to go back to sticking dicks in our ears HAPPY NOW?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:16 AM on September 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Irrigate! Irrigate! The call is coming from inside your ear!
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:46 AM on September 13, 2015


Take away my Q-Tips? From my cold, dead ears!
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:32 AM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


A friend (with various ear problems, many from his days in punk bands) gets regular boulders of wax clogging up his logs. He's still a musician, so this is even less fun than for the rest of us.

He uses olive oil, which he decants in, then plugs the ear with cotton wool and then lies on the floor for half an hour with that ear uppermost to let gravity do the work. Takes about a week to work, if done once a day, and "use a good quality oil, you can taste it."

IANAM and I have no patience, so I just build my own ear scoops using pliers and paperclips - carefully bent-over ends, formed into a tiny hook, with gentle curves. The amount of satisfaction is proportional to the size of lump extracted, so if I can muster the self-discipline I let a few days build up... but mostly I can't, so it's little and often. This is a good idea anyway if you use in-ear headphones a lot (I do), because they really can cause problems pushing the wax back down the canal. On the other hand, there are certain professional earphones that have a sort of Christmas-tree profile silicone plug, and these can scoop out remarkable amounts. An ex-colleague I used to make videos with was infamous among the produciton crew for the epic deposits left of their talkback gear after he'd been on.

But - oh - the somatic bliss when you feel a really sizable and well-affixed mass start to come loose and slide out from deep within. I can remember good 'uns from decades back, in crystal-clear 4K technicolor 100fps.

(Ocassionally, my earwax stops being earwax and becomes a light powder for a while, then reverts. No idea what's going on there - I know that genetically, some people are powdery rather than waxy, but I've never heard of it being modal. Such fun.)
posted by Devonian at 4:35 AM on September 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think the biggest risks are that some people under some conditions will shove the wax up against the eardrum, making it worse, and that careless or people who lack manual dexterity will puncture the eardrum. I go all the way in, and will work around the edge of the eardrum and I have very little difficulty in avoiding putting pressure on the eardrum itself.

That said, I am very cognizant of where I'm standing and where my elbow/arm is, and that I don't do this near other people (such as when someone else is in the bathroom) -- I can see how people might bump their arm (because they're walking around or something) or their arm is bumped by someone else, and they puncture their eardrum.

The rhetoric against doing this is overheated -- but my guess is that it's just one of those things where certain authorities have decided to present an overcautious message and not like those many other things that are much more dangerous that no one thinks twice about.

Also, yeah, I hate those fucking bendy, plastic ones. Q-Tips themselves can be plastic and bendy. Only the paper ones will do. DOWN WITH THE BENDY ONES!
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:40 AM on September 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


i remember learning about the fact that cockroaches like to eat ear wax. i'd say it inspired botfly levels of AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHH
posted by angrycat at 4:43 AM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Stick it in your ear!
posted by fairmettle at 4:47 AM on September 13, 2015


That said, I am very cognizant of where I'm standing and where my elbow/arm is, and that I don't do this near other people (such as when someone else is in the bathroom) -- I can see how people might bump their arm (because they're walking around or something) or their arm is bumped by someone else, and they puncture their eardrum.

Absolutely yes! Stand still in a room where you aren't near anything and keep an eye on the door.
posted by biffa at 5:06 AM on September 13, 2015


As a person with small ear canals who considers them quite the right size thank you, I've just about made peace with the fact that there seem to be plenty of people whose ear canals are so large they can fit the entire head of a Q-tip in them. But those Christmas-tree earplugs/earphones - there are people who fit those entire things into their ear canals??

has anyone got any data on ear canal sizes, actually?
posted by lokta at 5:22 AM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


The cap to a Bic Cristal is the best home wax extractor evar.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:37 AM on September 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


TwoStride - not to spoil your fun or anything, but I have a touch of psoriasis in my ears and used to get great pleasure doing the same thing as you... Until I got a bacterial infection in the cracked skin left in the ear after an excavation, and spent the weekend in hospital on an IV antibiotic drip, with the right side of my face blown up like the elephant man. It was bogus.
posted by bifter at 6:15 AM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wordshore: All my life (think this is/was a local thing from where I come from) the curved end of hair grips to scoop out the wax.

Yes! My folks in western Tennessee used this method in the 1950s, and it is still spoken of with sighs of pleasure.

I miss the bendy, blue plastic Q-tips from the '70s. The cotton was softer.
posted by mochapickle at 6:26 AM on September 13, 2015


My name is Mike and I'm a Q-Tip addict. I will often use them two or more time a day. I am not ashamed and I will not stop.
posted by MikeMc at 6:30 AM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


The problem is people who never clean and then start to feel plugged up and then get the bright idea to stick a Qtip in there and really pack it in.

I find this comment a very enlightening suggestion about how the drastic prohibition came to be. A few gallumphs ruining it for the rest of us.
posted by Miko at 6:37 AM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Loop end of a bobby pin, y'all.
posted by sourwookie at 6:39 AM on September 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


So... nobody mentions the coughing. Does it make anyone else cough when they have a Qtip in their ear?
posted by Brockles at 6:40 AM on September 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


I learn so much about people by reading threads like this.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:43 AM on September 13, 2015 [22 favorites]


I much prefer the one ended laboratory cotton swabs I can get at work. The cotton is packed much tighter, and the diameter is slightly smaller so I can have more control actually twirling around and out. And then hell yes, peroxide at home. Da bubbly bubbly.
posted by ian1977 at 6:46 AM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


My Japanese husband turned me on to the Japanese scoop 30 years ago and I never looked back. In fact he had a bit of fetish about it and one of the things he liked to do was lay my head on his lap and clean out my ears. I've been told that a haircut in Japan includes a ear canal cleaning.

Also he told me a story of once when he was on a train he was standing next to beautiful woman but when she turned her head he could see her ear canal was clogged with wax and it was an immediate turn off like she was a hideous monster. I still don't know how much of this was him and how much of this was the Japanese culture.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:54 AM on September 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure why, but my left ear creates about five times as much wax as my right. It may be a mutant superpower.
posted by delfin at 7:10 AM on September 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bifter: Until I got a bacterial infection in the cracked skin left in the ear after an excavation,

Eeeeeeeeeeeek! This is why I'm waiting for my doctor to stop me. But she doesn't!
posted by TwoStride at 7:10 AM on September 13, 2015


I think of Qtips after a shower as just drying off the inside of my ears. It is the best.
posted by Fig at 7:10 AM on September 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Wear over the ear headphones for 4-5 hours, this causes the ear (and hence the wax) to get a bit warmer and you can really sop it up.
posted by Mick at 7:23 AM on September 13, 2015


If i don't use qtips regularly I'll get earwax on my earbuds all the time, sometimes quite a bit.

I am certain the buds stimulate wax production. I normally never need to clean my ears out. Wear in-ear monitors for a few days, though, and inevitably my ears fill with gunk.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:36 AM on September 13, 2015


I'm mad at myself for reading this thread. I thought maybe it'd be worth the tips but noooope.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:40 AM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, I look in a lot of ears all day long and I see a lot of wax. I'll give you all my little spiel as an audiologist.

The danger isn't really puncturing the ear drum. That has certainly happened, but usually not from a q-tip (usually a bobby pin or a nail). The danger is that you think you're cleaning out your wax while you're actually pushing most of it further down the canal, causing it to impact and eventually occlude.

I see people all the time with a big old impaction of cerumen past the second bend of their canal and they're like "but I clean my ears with q-tips!" and I'm like that's how you got that impaction. The inner third or so of your canal is mostly bone, with very little cartilage and no glands. So once the wax gets down there - which it never naturally does - there's no way for it to move out of the ear canal, and it collects and eventually hardens, impacts, turns black, and becomes a nasty problem and can cause a conductive hearing loss (non-permanent).

It gets much worse as you age or if you are Asian or Native American, because your cerumen tends to be much drier and impacts more easily.

The outer part of your ear canal is cartilage, and the glands cause the wax to move in an upward and outward pattern, continuously. The point of this is that it cleans your ear canals, preventing things like otitis externa.

If you're very careful and try to stick to the outer third or so of your ear canal, it usually doesn't create a problem for most people. But of course most people don't have a very good sense for the length and shape of their ear canal.

If you wear hearing aids or spend a lot of time with ear buds in, it can be a bigger issue, as occluding the ear tends to increase wax production.

I do tell my patients not to do it, because there is zero benefit, and in most cases is considered harmful, since wax is necessary to keep the ears clean. But I also don't harp on it too much.

has anyone got any data on ear canal sizes, actually

There's tons of data, because we regularly check people's ear canal volume and transfer function of the canal in the clinic. Ear canals are highly variable. Average adult ear canal is about 1 ml but there's a big range.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:54 AM on September 13, 2015 [42 favorites]


I want to know about if foam earplugs cause impaction, too! Since I started using them nightly I hardly ever get the kind of wax buildup that made me want to use q-tips.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:58 AM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's likely because you're pulling out wax with the earplugs. And generally no, the foam earplugs aren't long enough to cause an impaction for most people, and you don't have the repeated pushing like you get with q-tip users.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:00 AM on September 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


OK, some people damage their ear drums, and some people develop infections... but most people go their whole lives q-tipping away without a problem.

This is medical pearl-clutching. Lowering your calorie intake by 10% will do far, far more for you than never cleaning your ears (shudder).
posted by IAmBroom at 8:18 AM on September 13, 2015


It gets much worse as you age or if you are Asian or Native American, because your cerumen tends to be much drier and impacts more easily.

EVERY SINGLE EAR DOCTOR i have ever had tells me this with grim foreboding and then looks in my ears and is OUTRAGED to see that they are clean and free of crusty deathplugs even though I use qtips every day to dry the insides after a shower. just a little poke and a twirl is enough altho sometimes i like a good satisfying jab as well.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:20 AM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Japanese Q-tips are also the bomb. Little narrower, little less fluffy. Worth it, IMHO, but I do have rather small ears.

And yes to the Japanese ear rake.
posted by jfwlucy at 8:26 AM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am dying to go to an Asian ear-cleaning salon but I am the whitest of white ladies and they would have to deal with my Western-style gooey earwax and I would feel very bad.
posted by cadge at 8:43 AM on September 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is medical pearl-clutching.

I'm not unsympathetic to this, but the fact is that upwards of 60% of dependent elderly adults have completely preventable cerumen impactions, and one of the reasons for that is q-tip use. Considering that hearing loss is a major risk factor for developing dementia, I think it's generally worth, especially for older adults, beating the drum against q-tip use.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:44 AM on September 13, 2015 [15 favorites]


lokta: "has anyone got any data on ear canal sizes, actually?"

I can tell you that foam plugs are made in different sizes and my ear canals are significantly different sizes. Given the choice I wear a small on the right and medium on the left.
posted by Mitheral at 8:49 AM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Use after showering and twirl. With the proper technique, the combination of moisture and twirling motion will cause the cotton to extend slightly into a twirly cone, which can penetrate deep to caress the inner parts of your ear. The twirly cone is soft and therefore cannot puncture anything, and the twirling motion brushes the earwax laterally rather pushing it inwards. Though if you are doing it regularly (as you should because it feels awesome), there is no wax buildup and thus no danger of impaction.
posted by dephlogisticated at 8:49 AM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


A Vietnamese barbershop ear cleaning is one of life's unexpected and unsung erotic pleasures.
posted by grubby at 8:55 AM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


hearing loss is a major risk factor for developing dementia

Say what?
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:58 AM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


hearing loss is a major risk factor for developing dementia

Say what?


Indeed, and the evidence is quite good. You may be interested in the research of Frank Lin at Johns Hopkins. For example.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:03 AM on September 13, 2015 [14 favorites]


I've seen like one or two cases of self induced tympanic membrane rupture which is incredibly painful yes but typically heals on its own only rarely requiring surgery.

My sister did this a few months ago, tripped over her cat. I shut the door when I am using my q-tips and/or stand with my back to the wall in the gym and shoot menacing looks to people who might go near me. Happy to hear the good news about foam earplugs. None of this can help me with my glue ear through, sadly.
posted by jessamyn at 9:06 AM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just want you all to know that I just showered and had an exquisite Q-tipping experience in the aftermath.
posted by TwoStride at 9:20 AM on September 13, 2015


Why does this article keep talking about ear candling, a bullshit new age therapy that does absolutely nothing? Halfway down they admit that doctors say it doesn't do anything but cause wax burns and set fire to your head, but I'm wondering why they give it the credibility of mentioning it at all since the sort of people likely to go in for this or having their chakras energized by illuminated crystals or whatever aren't going to read that far anyway.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:26 AM on September 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


We did a tort law case of someone shoving a Q-Tip through an ear drum in law school (which apparently led to the warnings on the Q-Tips), and in response to the quite graphic recitation of facts in the case, a girl a couple rows behind me involuntarily shrieked, "Oh my GOD! Are you kidding?"

Retorted the professor, "This is a tort law class, of course I'm not kidding!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:34 AM on September 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wordshore: As a side point, has anyone else noted how utterly vile their earwax tastes, even when drunk? Um, asking for a friend.

I mentioned this to my friend last night, and in response she said the real question is why does earwax taste so bad while boogers taste so good? Still friends, though I'm a little leery now.
posted by carsonb at 10:09 AM on September 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


hearing loss is a major risk factor for developing dementia


I can easily believe this. I've had a variety of medical ailments affecting many different parts of my body: plantar fasciatis, bursitis, gall stones, yada, yada, yada from extremely painful (abscessed tooth) to extremely annoying ( loss of cartilage on my hip joint). Nothing has driven me as crazy as the wax occlusion in my right ear. It lasted a week and I was going bonkers trying everything I could think of: warm compresses, oil, OTC solutions, shaking my head. Fortunately it eventually dissolved with the OTC stuff and I still remember that moment-- the overwhelming relief not from pain, it wasn't painful, but just the return of my hearing.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:09 AM on September 13, 2015


some of that data with a great diagram!

This is really illuminating.
posted by lokta at 10:24 AM on September 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


There's a reason why rooting around inside your ears with a q-tip is called an "eargasm".
posted by VioletU at 11:25 AM on September 13, 2015


huh. "eargasm" is a phrase from an early ATCQ track.

Said by the rapper Q-Tip.
posted by lkc at 12:30 PM on September 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've always preferred to clean my ears with rebent paper clips from the office ... (1) the looping wire tends to scoop wax out and (2) if I damage my eardrum I can claim it as a work related injury.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:33 PM on September 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hey man where'd you get
That lotion? I been itching
Since I bought the gimmick
About raking them clean
About candling
That's like hypnotizing chickens
Well I am just a modern guy
Of course I've had it in the ear before
posted by ernielundquist at 1:11 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


But....THE COUGHING.
posted by Brockles at 1:34 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I always wonder what percentage of Q-Tips® sold end up in ears.

I use them for makeup---fixing eyeliner mistakes, getting the darkest eyeshadow onto the eyelid crease before blending it.
posted by discopolo at 2:14 PM on September 13, 2015


The cap off of a Bic Round Stic pen. Has the nice rounded end on the pocket clip, with just enough edge to gently scrape the sides. Nearly impossible to insert it far enough to touch the eardrum. My ear canals seem to ask for this about 5 to 10 hours after a shower.

I'm usually quite gentle, and make sure first that the end is clean! Ear infections suck.

Back in my windsurfing days, one ear was jammed up with wax for a few days. My regular doc was on vacation, his replacement was a seen-everything, battle-hardened family GP who took a 5 second look, filled his honkin big syringe under the tap (not even warm water) and let'er rip in my ear. Big pop, baby-fingertip-sixed of wax expelled, and the improvement in hearing was like going from black & white to colour.
posted by Artful Codger at 2:35 PM on September 13, 2015


- 6g of keratin (preferably your own)
- 1.5g of saturated and unsaturated long-chain fatty acids
- small dash of alcohols
- tiny dash of squalene
- 1g of cholesterol

Carefully mix in a sterile petri dish. Allow to firm slightly, but not congeal. Mould into inner ear, being careful not to force too far down, making retrieval difficult.

Marinade for several days.

Remove from ear with a Bic Round Stic pen, bent paperclip, hairgrip or Q-tip. Consume to taste. Best served with a side order of a plate of beans.

(Recipe extrapolation)
posted by Wordshore at 3:27 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


rebent paper clips

noooOOOOOPE NOPE NOPE Nope nope nope
posted by en forme de poire at 3:34 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've been told that a haircut in Japan includes a ear canal cleaning.


I had it in Thailand. Pretty scary having somebody working with picks deep in my right ear while trying to suppress the tickling sensations of the pedicure on my left foot.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:16 PM on September 13, 2015


Lutoslawski is right (and thanks so much for being an audiologist!), occlusion does seem to play a big factor and since my hearing loss is profound I wear my hearing aids all the time, so ... occlusion is the name of the game, particuarly with earmoulds that dig in deep and push the wax in, and of course the moulds produce more wax. Why my ears don't learn not to overproduce after 20+ years of this, I don't even know.

I think it's once or twice a year that I have to get my ears syringed and enormous lumps come out. Getting a look at the kidney dish afterwards is fascinatingly gross, usually bits of wax the size of an adult thumbnail in various shades of brown and yellow. I love it when I get to take a look! Last time I wanted pictures, but the doctor tipped it out before I got my phone camera up. Trust me, it was impressive -- I had an epic ear infection that the earwax was stopping up entirely so nothing topical could help, and the swelling nearly burst my eardrum and the wax peeled off from the inside like a sticker. (IT IS SO FUN TO TALK ABOUT THIS.)

For daily stuff I grow my little fingernail on either or both hands to about a centimetre or so long and use that to gently scoop out some of the buildup when the overproduction clogs my moulds in twenty minutes due to weather or illness or whatever. A bit like the spoon on the end of a milkshake straw. But that's about it, no qtips, since I'd have to actually go and get them when I needed them. :P
posted by E. Whitehall at 5:22 PM on September 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


[looks guiltily at the open 500-pack of generic "cotton swabs" right by his computer desk]

I-I can stop any time I want. Honest.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:54 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I-I can stop any time I want. Honest.

Don't feel guilty, don't feel ashamed, embrace it, revel in it. I do.
posted by MikeMc at 6:02 PM on September 13, 2015


There's a tiny staff bathroom in my library and hanging on a hook is a clear plastic bag with an odd assortment of supplies. One of these supplies is a very small box of q-tips. EVERYTIME I go in that bathroom and see that box I think "mmmm, wouldn't that feel nice right about now?" This is completely unbidden and unrelated to the actual waxiness of my ears. I have never given in, because I fear it would become A THING and I would have to surreptitiously replace all the swabs I had used up.
posted by Biblio at 6:42 PM on September 13, 2015


Regarding Q-tips and coughing (from the good women and men at Cambridge):
There is a cough-ear reflex, but only 2.3% of the population experience it. There’s something called Arnold’s nerve, part of the vagus nerve which supplies the head and neck. It supplies the back and lower floor of the external auditory canal – the tube towards your inner ear. If stimulated, this nerve can provoke a coughing reflex. Although only 2.3% of people experience this in one ear, only 0.6% get it in both!
FINALLY I AM THE ONE PERCENT
posted by Kabanos at 7:36 PM on September 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


Wow. I am apparently the 0.6%.

Suck it non-coughing losers.
posted by Brockles at 7:39 PM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thank you for the statistics because I was finding the coughing comments inexplicable.

Y'all are weird.
posted by jaguar at 7:45 PM on September 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


My ears produce excessive amounts of wax so I once had to have that syringe treatment (and it didn't even work the first time. I had to go home and use Debrox for a week and then come back in). They warned me not to use Q-tips.

My ears also produce excessive ear infections. Last time I had a serious one, I ruptured my eardrum. They warned me to never, ever use Q-tips again.

Reader, I fucking love Q-tips and I use them all the time. No doubt I am going to end up with nasty occluded wax in my ears hastening the already-destined dementia but it feels so good.
posted by librarylis at 7:52 PM on September 13, 2015


Still friends, though I'm a little leery now.

Come on, a friend that candid is a keeper. Next you can show her how nose-grease will cause an overly frothy beer head to subside within seconds. TRUE STORY.

Another alternative use of Q-Tips is auto detailing. I love detailing my own car when I have time, and Q-tips are irreplaceable for running along into the tiny crevices between console parts and the edges of inset things like stereo screens. They always come out dark grey with accumulated cruft and it's very satisfying.

Same is true for vintage audio equipment, if you have that. Really get down into the gap the "record" button leaves when it's depressed, and the like.
posted by Miko at 8:16 PM on September 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Another alternative use of Q-Tips is auto detailing. I love detailing my own car when I have time, and Q-tips are irreplaceable for running along into the tiny crevices between console parts and the edges of inset things like stereo screens. They always come out dark grey with accumulated cruft and it's very satisfying.

I lack the patience to ever detail my own car (I am more in the category of two or three cursory cleanings per year), but if I am ever a plutocrat I will buy the biggest Costco-sized box of Q-tips for the butler and insist that every crevice in my car be swabbed down to the bottom. Driving a car that has been cleaned to such a glorious degree sounds like a wonderful luxury to me.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:28 PM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Aw hell, now I'm going to have to break the Q-tips back out just to see if I have the coughing reflex in both ears or just one.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:48 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


OMG. How has no one mentioned the glorious Clinere ear cleaners? (Or as I call me, "ear spoons.") Buy them at the drugstore--usually grocery stores don't have them. They come ten to a pack and I reuse them, which is a bit gross and not advised by the packaging but I'm cheap. These changes my perennially waxy and itchy-eared life. They're made of flexible but hard plastic. One end is a little spoon shape for removing wax and the other is a ridged honey dripper for itches. They're just the right size for the ear and widen beneath the ends so you can't insert them dangerously far. Unlike q-tips they're actually meant to go in your ears and don't shove the wax in. And they're oh so perversely satisfying.
posted by zeusianfog at 12:19 AM on September 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well those just look like a big, fancy Q-Tip to me. Are they made out of clingfilm or something so the inevitable fall or joking-elbow-push doesn't render you with Khan-Chekov Syndrome?
posted by rhizome at 12:36 AM on September 14, 2015


This was the BEST thread to start my day. Laughed out loud, y'all.

Long live the Q-Tip.
posted by Sophie1 at 6:53 AM on September 14, 2015


One hundred and thirty four comments in and no mention of the Viking Ear Spoon? For shame, Metafilter.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:06 AM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Every now and then I get a build-up that affects my hearing. I just squeeze in a couple of drops of Cerumol (I keep a bottle in my desk drawer), wait 5 minutes, then go in the bathroom and flush my ear with warm water from a little rubber squeezy bulb thing. Out pops a hunk of wax about the size and shape of a filter tip from a cigarette, and I'm cured.

There's no way a q-tip would have gotten that thing out of my head. I don't know what you people are using them for, but it isn't the wax buildup I get.
posted by rocket88 at 8:27 AM on September 14, 2015


Anything involving the ear canal (just like anything involving the nasal canals) just puts me in mind of the sinuses, which are right the hell there in the middle of literally everything, and how vulnerable they are, and how anything going wrong with your sinuses is the bearer of perhaps the greatest pain known to humankind.
posted by blucevalo at 9:40 AM on September 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I bought those pointy Q-Tips for something specific but keep forgetting to get the regular kind. Jamming a pointy Q-Tip in your ear by accident will cure you of the uninhibited impulse to stick something in your ear.

occlusion does seem to play a big factor and since my hearing loss is profound I wear my hearing aids all the time

So does improving/amplifying your hearing stop and/or reverse the possibility, or is the hearing loss itself the factor? Because I have moderate to severe hearing loss but can't afford hearing aids, but if they will stop or delay dementia I'll bump it from the "convenient but non-essential" priority list.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:43 AM on September 14, 2015


Next to one of those squirt bulbs, the best way I've found to remove wax from my ears was a coke spoon. This was a long time ago.
posted by Splunge at 11:04 AM on September 14, 2015


beating the drum against q-tip use

I see what you did there
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:31 AM on September 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Related (and also mentions MetaFilter in passing; graphic video autoplay alert)
posted by Wordshore at 3:42 PM on September 14, 2015


Dude. That could be a fpp all on its own. You should put it up!
posted by sciatrix at 3:58 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


nothing has ever before so badly needed 10,000,000 trigger warnings, oh my fucking god
posted by poffin boffin at 4:01 PM on September 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


FWIW, most of our ear structures derive from the gill arches of our ancient, fishy ancestors. The vagus nerves that cause coughing reflexes in some of us are what they used to control their slits. If you've seen the show Inner Fish, you may remember the segment about a woman's Preauricular Ear Pit. Apparently those can also get fluid in them too and need cleaning.
posted by cephalopodcast at 5:24 PM on September 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


You should put it up!

Not with that "autoplaying" animated gif you shouldn't.
posted by jessamyn at 5:25 PM on September 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Not with that "autoplaying" animated gif you shouldn't.

Strongly seconded, but with more cursing.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:49 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


...because no one has added a warning yet, it's a rather fascinating piece about why popping zits draws people in. I apparently am more resistant to large gifs of people lancing cysts than most people, though.

I feel the need to say I'm also not addicted to popping videos or anything either. I just think people with weird fascinations are cool.
posted by sciatrix at 5:52 PM on September 14, 2015


it's a rather fascinating piece about why popping zits draws people in.

The article also just keeps going and going. Like one of the cyst videos, just when you think that there could not possibly be more, another set of horrors are squeezed out.

I agree that it would make for the basis of a great FPP, but it's also a queasy-inducing subject and some warnings would be appropriate.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:05 PM on September 14, 2015


Lutoslawski: This is medical pearl-clutching.

I'm not unsympathetic to this, but the fact is that upwards of 60% of dependent elderly adults have completely preventable cerumen impactions, and one of the reasons for that is q-tip use. Considering that hearing loss is a major risk factor for developing dementia, I think it's generally worth, especially for older adults, beating the drum against q-tip use.


I stand corrected, and educated.

OK: for most of us this is an overreaction, yes? But for certain groups... Q-tips are a problem.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:14 PM on September 14, 2015


From this thread, I have learned the word "cerumen." "Cerumen" is such a nice, melodious word for "ear wax." It's odd - it sounds beautiful, like a Renaissance stringed instrument. Compared to other bodily secretions ("smegma," which sounds like what it is, or "rheum" or "sputum" which all sound gross), it's a positively lovely name.
posted by Miko at 7:27 PM on September 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


And it's the Latin word for "wax" (as in 'bees make it').
posted by IAmBroom at 9:14 PM on September 14, 2015


And it's the Latin word for "wax" (as in 'bees make it').

That's cool that there's the same double meaning in Latin.

My husband used to assume that the equation of (bees)wax and (ear)wax was universal, until he went to a doctor in Germany because his ear was blocked and he said he thought it was just Wachs (German for candle wax). It turns out the German for earwax is actually Schmalz ("animal fat") and the German doctor spent most of the appointment confused about why my husband was sticking candles in his ear.
posted by lollusc at 10:31 PM on September 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


"I agree that it would make for the basis of a great FPP, but it's also a queasy-inducing subject and some warnings would be appropriate."

Pretty much nothing disgusts or upsets me -- bugs or medical stuff or violent gore. I don't ever expect that I'll feel that I'll need to nope back out of a link and always find it interesting when other people do.

But thanks to Wordshore, I've learned a valuable lesson. I can totally handle the larvae/worms stuff. But all that pus and the like? Eeyughh. That autoplaying video at the top instantly nauseated me. And that never happens. I think I was having a sandwich the other day when I read that body farm article.

So I'm boggled that people watch those videos for pleasure. Not that I disapprove. Have fun! I'll be over here covering my eyes.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:06 AM on September 15, 2015


I mentioned this to my friend last night, and in response she said the real question is why does earwax taste so bad while boogers taste so good? Still friends, though I'm a little leery now.

My Dad sometimes makes fun of me because whenever I eat I get close to the plate and really smell my food. Always have since I was little. Point is, I never had any temptation to eat ear wax.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:39 AM on September 15, 2015


wait are you saying your boogers absorb the scent of the food

what trickery is this
posted by kagredon at 2:09 AM on September 15, 2015


[Added a video autoplay alert to Wordshore's comment per his request ]
posted by taz (staff) at 2:09 AM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dude. That could be a fpp all on its own. You should put it up!

Researched and done but with a lead alert, an alert for the autoplay Guardian video, and tag alerts.

I apologize for not originally putting an alert next to the comment-link upthread. I keep forgetting that comments need alerts the same as posts.

I am now seriously going to phone my therapist for an appointment after the last hour of looking at videos.
posted by Wordshore at 2:13 AM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm saying ear wax is the worst smell I have ever smelled.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:17 AM on September 15, 2015


okay that is not the kind of thing that is well-communicated by comparing it to food
posted by kagredon at 2:36 AM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, it is very unlike food.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:23 AM on September 15, 2015


My food smells like boogers?
posted by carsonb at 5:42 AM on September 15, 2015


I mean, pretty much everything smells like boogers. You all are booger-sniffers!
posted by carsonb at 5:43 AM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


And ear wax-hearers! The lot of you!
posted by carsonb at 5:44 AM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


My sister found out cats love human ear wax. Try it, stick your finger in your ear and present it to your cat - they universally love it. Pretty gross, but there you go....

Also, I think that is why your cat's purring speeds up as they sniff close to your ear when trying to wake you up. Weird felines.
posted by guy72277 at 8:24 AM on September 15, 2015


My cat always sniffs my right nostril. I have chronic sinusitis, so I just figure she's checking to see if I'm about to die.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:40 AM on September 15, 2015


the deli cat at the bodega downstairs loves nothing more than licking the snots off the tip of my nose in the coldest most nose-runny days of winter.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:45 AM on September 15, 2015


Your friend.
Your friend's bodega cat.
Your friend's licking snots.
Your friend's nose-runny days of winter.
Please, leave us with the illusion.
posted by carsonb at 2:09 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


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