Don’t be so quick to grab that Q-Tip
by Ken Carpenter
I don’t know about anyone else, but earwax has never registered very high on my priority meter. Maybe two on a scale of ten, just because there should always be room at the bottom for politicians.
Apparently, everybody does not share that viewpoint. A team, let me repeat that, a whole team of Japanese researchers recently spent a long time studying earwax. Diligently scurrying around cramming test tubes with earwax, separating the valuable wax into wet and dry samples and furiously digging into what makes earwax earwax. I can’t help imagining the plight of the lowly wax boys who had to scrape out the ear holes of the thousands of humans needed to quench the insatiable wax thirst of the researchers.
The end result of their cutting edge research determined that there is an actual earwax gene. Not to be confused with an earwax jean, which is what you might end up with if a jug-eared redneck with waxy buildup and a skinny index finger spent too long with nothing to do.
There are two kinds of earwax. The “dry, flaky” type is the result of a gene that originated in ancient Northeast Asia, where 80-95% of the population now has the dry type.
The other type, unfortunately for most of us, is known as the “wet, stinky” type. It is abundant in people of African and European ancestry (97-100%).
The rest of the world is roughly 30-50% dry, and it just doesn’t seem fair to me. I do not want to be one of the “wet, stinky” types.
One theory of the team, a theory that sends a shiver up my spine, is that wet wax actually works as a pheromone. For those of you who think I am talking about choking a fairy until it moans, don’t get your hopes up.
Pheromones are the scents a male or female body generates that attract the opposite sex. So, (gulp) if the research is to be believed, an ear canal packed full of smelly, wet earwax is guaranteed to pull the babes in.
Of course, the babes may be flaunting two teeth, eight chins, and a coffee cup full of earwax themselves. Be still my heart! I suppose some cologne called “Waxioné” will be right around corner.
After checking the Internet, I found that earwax is big business. There are dozens of wax killers, suckers, pickers, and zappers on the market. The Eardoc loosens wax with sonic vibrations, only $29.99! The Wax Zapper is like a little drill, it spins it out with a silicone tip. The three-step system, Aura Clear, chemically boils the ear canal clean, only $40 per cleaning! The funny thing is, unless it is excessive we need earwax to cushion our eardrum and catch cooties.
Those are just a few of the products on the market, but by far the most common and profitable earwax murderer is ear candling. It dates back as far as 2500 BC and was practiced by every major civilization for therapeutic and spiritual reasons. It entails lying on your side, inserting a long, hollow, cone-shaped candle through a shield and into your ear hole, and lighting it. As it burns down, wax and other ear toxins are supposedly drawn to the outer ear.
Some proponents of it claim that regular candling not only cleanses the ear, but can relieve sinus problems, purify the brain, reduce stress, sharpen the senses and provide numerous other benefits to the body and soul. Opponents of it say it is hogwash, pure and simple. I decided a hands-on, or ears-on, experiment was in order.
After cajoling, begging and ridiculing my cowardly wife, friends, and co-workers into letting me stick a lit candle into their ears, I gave up with a heavy sigh. It would be my ears or none. My wife delightedly agreed to be my amateur earcanologist, although she thought me insane.
By the way, for a couple hundred bucks, anyone can get a certificate making them an official earcanologist. For a little extra you could probably be certified as a Professor of Earcanology, but I’m just guessing.
Ear candles are available locally, as are simple directions, so I was soon in business. As instructed, I anointed my ear caverns with olive oil the day before. In no time, I was craving a pizza.
The next morning I cut a notch in a paper plate and laid down on the bed with the plate over my ear and the skinny end of the candle in my lubed and fearful ear hole. My wife managed to stop giggling long enough to light the tip 12 inches above my ear, and I was immediately treated to the sound of sizzling bacon. Luckily, it was not accompanied by the odor of cooking meat, so I guessed my ear was safe for the present.
It took about 10 minutes to burn down, so my mind wandered. I didn’t know what else ear candles might be good for, so I decided not to tell my wife that I had been slightly constipated recently.
When the strange, but not unpleasant, time was up, I conned Joy into peering into my ear with a flashlight.
“Yuck!” she cried, “It’s full of goop!”
“Aha, victory is mine!” I gloated. “I’ll bet it’s loaded with pheromones. Are you suddenly finding me attractive?”
“Urp!” was all she could croak out.
I thoroughly swabbed out the other ear before its candling, but the end result was the same. My little test proved that ear candling actually works as a wax puller.
In fact, even my brain felt pure. Then Joy bent over to grab her shoes and I couldn’t resist the urge to goose her.
Some things just can’t be purified.