First let me just say that I am a calm, rational, logical person who is definitely not addicted to Q-tips.
Or their generic cotton swab brethren either.
Yes, I admit, I used to regularly clear my ear canals of wax using the those handy, tiny tufts of cotton on a stick. It was effective and felt…satisfying. So effective and satisfying (but not addictive!) that it became a daily duty.
If you haven’t cleaned your ears with a Q-tip or the generic equivalent, you can’t understand. The scrubbing sensation, the rustling, up-close sound, the joy when the cotton comes back yellow and your inner ear feels…pure.
It’s simply amazing (but not addictive!).
I’m pretty sure there are a ton of ASMR ear cleaning videos that can give you a sense of it. A pale, shadow-of-reality sense of it.
(That said, don’t blame me if you get lost down that particular ASMR rabbit hole. I recommend a viewing of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as an antidote.)
But ear wax, its nature…waxes and wanes.
Some days it’s moist and clingy and easy to remove.
Some days it isn’t.
Some days it’s dry and brittle and swab-phobic. It’s an entrenched army of bitter angry wax, stretched too thin and unwilling to cede its hard-won inner ear-land.
On those days, the spinning and twirling and rubbing of cottony goodness inside your ear has to be…more vigorous.
And on one of those days, I drew blood.
A lot of blood.
An eliciting from the Missus an “Oh my gawd are you having an aneurysm!?” amount of blood.
The Emergency Room doctor, of course, told me that sticking something deep in your ear and spinning, twirling, and rubbing it is stupid.
That’s the actual medical term for it: stupid. I kid you not.
She’s probably right.
So I stopped.
(See, not addicted. Told you!)
She also explained that the ear has its own way of cleaning itself and getting rid of excess wax. She gave more details, but at that point I had a wad of gauze, a large scab, and no doubt some surplus ear wax clogging things up and making it difficult for me to hear. I got the gist of the message and left it at that.
What my doctor said may be true, but she failed to mention (or perhaps I just didn’t hear) that as you get old (not older, but old, like me), the body’s mechanism for self-cleaning the ears becomes less…pleasant, shall we say?
When I was little and before I had access to cotton swabs, I never thought about the wax in my ears. Whatever self-cleaning was going on went on seamlessly and quietly.
Not so now.
Now I can feel small pieces of wax fall into the bottom of my ear canal, hear the slight rustling sound as it lands, sense when it’s actually falling out of my ear (usually when I’m trying to make a good impression on someone – nothing says “Hey I’m a classy cool, hip and with-it dude” like flakes of wax fluttering out of your ear).
And not itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow flakes of ear wax.
And not bright yellow.
Not to mention the itchiness that accompanies this self-purging. Did I mention the itchiness?
It’s like having chicken pox in your ears.
Or an army of microscopic ants marching in and out of the ol’ sound canals.
It’s enough to make an old man want to head to an NRA-approved Death Camp™ (also known as a ‘school’) and end it all.
But instead I find myself reaching for the box of Q-tips again. Not because I’m addicted, but because the bugs are in my ears and I need to get them out.
Fortunately, they get stuck in the ear wax and I can spin, twirl, and scrub them out before they cause any brain damage.
(If you feel compelled to leave any comments, please use ALL CAPS as I’m having a hard time hearing right now.)