Millions of People are Watching Earwax Removal Videos

Why are so many of us watching?

Julia Métraux

Health Writer

TikTok has been an amazingly popular social-media platform, educating its audience of 800 million on a variety of topics — for example, healthcare workers dispelling coronavirus myths. One trending topic that took off in 2020 and continues to surge may surprise you: earwax removal. Videos posted with the hashtags #earwax and  #earcleaning have amassed over 1.4 billion and nearly 350 million views respectively.

Why do people want to watch?

The short ear-cleaning clips are quite straightforward, ranging from healthcare professionals cleaning their patients’ ears to parents helping their kids. So what then is the appeal? There’s the shock value of seeing a lot of wax removed, akin to watching “Dr. Pimple Popper.” But that can have a silver lining. Dr. Inna A. Husain, an otorhinolaryngologist and the Director of Voice, Airway, and Swallowing Disorders Program at Rush University, told Hearing Tracker that she’s pleased to see interest in earwax removal. “I think that these videos are popular because of the big reveal [of earwax] at the end, but they do bring attention to the ear and the importance of cleaning it.”

Dr. Husain, who has her own TikTok @voicedok, believes that social media can help medical professionals reach and educate a larger audience. “Knowing that so much wax can exist in an ear can be enlightening,” she noted about the videos, “and help people realize that maybe their ears need a checkup if things don’t feel right.”

@petrrrr7

##foryou ##earwax ##earwaxremoval

♬ original sound - 🚀𝐷𝐴𝐾𝐼𝐷𝐿𝑌𝑅𝐼𝐶🧸

Is the advice appropriate?

Before you decide to learn earwax-removal techniques from social media, consider the source of the information. According to Dr. Husain, you’ll see these kinds of contributors on social media: otorhinolaryngologists, other medical professionals, and laypeople. While earwax can be extracted without professional training, it’s important to understand that just because people make a video, they may not offer medically sound advice.

There’s one home remedy that made rounds on TikTok and concerns Dr. Husain: removing earwax with a candle. “We do not support the use of candling for removing earwax given the inherent danger of burning your ear, which does happen,” she said.

Dr. Husain advises against using Q-tips as well. “They can push earwax deeper into the canal,” she said. Echoing this, Chantelle Emery, the owner of Swift Hearing Centers Inc. and a hearing instrument practitioner, told Hearing Tracker that many of her patients are Q-tip users whose attempts at earwax removal with a swab has amplified the problem or caused an injury. Known as The Ear Girl on TikTok (1.3M followers), she says that she started to use the platform to demonstrate proper cleaning techniques. “Engaging with youth and adults on TikTok has allowed me to educate individuals about the proper way to clean ears as well as hearing loss and other hearing-related topics,” Emery said.

@theeargirl

#earwax #removal is painless and feels more like a high class ear spa! #everyonehaswax #feelsgood #satisfying #painfree #ears #fyp #HairFoodChallenge

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Cleaning the right way

So what does constitute proper cleaning, you may wonder? According to the Cleveland Clinic, one of the safest ways to get rid of earwax at home is by using over-the-counter ear cleaning drops. Favoring professional wax removal with precision tools, Dr. Husain says social media can help demystify this process. The videos “show the public that this should be done by a healthcare professional,” she explained. To know what to expect at an office visit, watch this TikTok video (the first video above) which has over one million views, and consider making an appointment.