Some people would call watching recordings of professional acne obliteration “gross,” “disgusting,” or maybe even “yucky.” That’s why I said “If I remember correctly.” This way, I can later deny my alleged penchant for pimple-popping clips, so as not to muck up future job prospects or political ambitions or whatever other shit.
I will, however, publicly endorse the YouTube channel Audiology Associates UK. These videos of earwax removal are a great, consistent component of the weird part of YouTube. The British company’s clips are informative, grody, oddly satisfying, and narrated by a kindly Welshman by the name of Rhys Barber. What more do you people want?
Barber, an audiologist who practices in South Wales, says he began making videos three years ago when he started using an endoscope (a tiny, tubular, minimally invasive camera that allows doctors to peek inside the body) to help him carry out ear-wax removal procedures at Audiology Associates, a company he founded with his fiancée, Leah Morris.
“We had lots of patients who wanted copies of the procedures to show family and friends,” he tells me. “So we decided to start editing some of them and posting them on YouTube.”
He’s now put up almost 80 episodes of wax removal, which he only posts after getting full permission from patients.
The most difficult extraction he’s filmed? A video titled “OUR LARGEST EVER WAX REMOVAL FROM BOTH EARS,” which is also his channel’s most viewed, at more than 2 million hits. Clocking in at 16:46, Barber uses every tool at his disposal in this clip—a suction tube, crocodile forceps, and a jobson horne probe, even opting to soften the wax with olive oil beforehand. It’s a masterpiece.
“There was so much hardened wax and keratin in the ear canal it was very difficult to remove and the procedure quite lengthy,” he tells me about the vid. “But we do love a challenge!”
Barber is far from the only doctor in the YouTube audiology game. Mr. Neel Raithatha (aka The Wax Whisperer) might be the king of the genre by the numbers, with more than 300 extraction videos posted and his top video sitting at 8.8 million views. Channels like Dr. Zhao Video, Earwax Specialist, and Dr. S. Thouk Earwax Specialist aren’t far behind, with hundreds of videos racking up thousands and thousands of views.
Still, for my money, Barber’s vids are the best of the bunch. While some channels put jarring music over their clips, many earwax videos simply lack any sound at all, which makes for a bit of an awkward viewing experience. Despite some early silent episodes of his own (and at least one that uses the cursed “Simple” iMovie stock music), Barber generally narrates his procedures, telling the viewer in a soothing Welsh accent why he picked each tool, what he’s pulling out of the ear, and the state of the ear’s health in general. It’s like I’m inside the canal with him!
The good doctor also shows you exactly how much gunk he pulls out of the ear in question at the end of each video by lining up the wax and dead skin next to a ruler. Gross! Great! Wow!
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO), one in 10 children and one in 20 adults have excessive or impacted cerumen (the technical term for earwax), so chances are you don’t need the deep cleaning shown in these clips. In fact, Barber advises not to attempt to clean your ears on your own, advice that’s generally supported by the AAO’s best practices for diagnosis and treatment of earwax.
“[Earwax] is naturally produced to keep the ear clean and defend it against infection,” Barber says. “In the majority of cases, the ear will clean itself if there is no interference… daily we have patients share with us the various ways they have attempted to self-clean their ears. We have heard stories of car keys, [bobby] pins, pen tops, and even dog eardrops.” According to Barber and the AAO, trying these DIY strategies could lead to accidentally cutting the ear canal, dislocating hearing bones, or puncturing an eardrum.
So, unless you’re a professional, nothing smaller than an elbow should go in your damn ears. Seriously, the AAO and Barber both say this. If you’re having ear pain or discomfort, contact a professional. Or, if you just want to virtually scratch that ear-cleaning itch, there are plenty of YouTube videos waiting for a wormhole adventure.
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