To escape the awful garbage heap that is our newscycle, the internet has found sweet, relaxing refuge in gross-out videos. Watching people pop pimples and clean out ear wax is apparently a form of self care or something now. So, here you go internet: behold, this video of a small vacuum removing a huge chunk of ear wax. (Don’t look at me like that, English degree. This is what the people want.)
A couple months ago, Mr. Neel Raithatha, who is an audiologist based in the UK, uploaded a video of him removing large chunks of wax from a patient’s ear using an itty bitty ear wax-sucking vacuum. Mr. Raithatha’s YouTube channel is dedicated to all things ear care and includes dozens and dozens of videos of him removing clots of ear wax. His channel has over 280 videos and almost 23 million views because we get the heroes we deserve.
This particular video recently gained attention thanks to the /r/popping subreddit (Yes, there’s an entire subreddit. You’re welcome/I’m sorry.) It currently has over 95,000 views, which pales in comparison to some of his most popular video which one or two million views. If you’re Team “Gross Videos Are Good And Fine,” you are far from alone.
The wax removal technique Mr. Raithatha is using in this video is called “endoscopic microsuction.” It involves using a small vacuum to gently remove wax from a person’s ear. Doctors often use methods like shooting pressurized water or tools like a curette in order to clean a person’s ear and safely remove wax.
You’ve likely heard that you shouldn’t use cotton swabs to clean your ears, according to most medical professionals. (I still don’t know what you would even use a Q-Tip for then. They seem so ear-shaped, but I’m not a doctor.) While you may assume you’re treating your ears to a refreshing cleaning by getting in there with a cotton bud, there’s a greater chance you’re actually pushing wax further down your ear canal, causing it to become compacted and clogged. An estimated 12 million Americans see their doctor “impacted or excessive cerumen” which can cause hearing loss and lead to infection. In worst case scenarios, inserting a cotton swab too far into your ear could cause you to rupture your eardrum.
There are ways to clean your ears safely that don’t involve sticking a literal stick into your ear. Doctors recommend methods like a damp washcloth around your outer ear to avoid doing serious damage to your inner ear. However, ears are self-cleaning and earwax actually acts as a protecting and cleaning agent. If you’re concerned about the wax build up in your ears, it’s best to see a medical professional instead of trying to scoop it out yourself with whatever Q-tips or pen caps you have lying around. (Yes, people use pen caps to clean out their ears. You can Google that on your own time. There is a limit to how much I will enable this gross obsession.)
If you’re curious why people enjoy pimple popping videos and the like—either because you want to understand your own fascination or need an explanation for why anyone would be into that—the answer is a combination of multiple things. They involve a sense of “danger” and, ultimately, “relief.” In an interview with Refinery29, Dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee compared the feeling some get from pimple popping videos to that of a “scary movie or riding a roller coaster.” Neuroscientist and professor Dr. Heather Berlin also told Refinery29, “There’s a cycle of anxiety or arousal before the act and a sense of relief after.”
We also just love gross things. Psychologist Nina Strohminger wrote a whole dissertation on it called “The Hedonics of Disgust,” the title of which is a really nice way to say, “y’all love nasty shit.”
“I don't think there's anything straightforwardly masochistic about it,” Strohminger wrote. “Rather, negative sensations are interesting, particularly when you're in a context where they can't hurt you. You're probably not going to step in dog shit just for the experience, but maybe you'd click on a link to watch someone else doing it.”
I mean, she’s not wrong. You clicked on this one.