Asian Ear Cleaning

I found this link via Zod. It’s true in China too — Chinese people do pay a lot of attention to cleaning ears. In the USA common tools found on keyrings include bottle openers and penlights. In China the little metal “ear wax scoop” is quite a hit. It may seem dangerous to one’s hearing to use one of those things, but you see people using them around town (no, it’s not pretty), and I don’t think it’s causing widespread hearing problems.

The way this “culture of ear cleaning” affects me personally is that when I go to get my hair cut, that comes with a shampoo, and an upper body massage, and an ear cleaning, all for 25rmb (just over $3). They do use Q-tips. It’s a weird form of vulnerability, submitting to a stranger’s Q-tip.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Jaime Cohen Says: November 30, 2005 at 11:56 am

    My mom, who is Korean, has an ear was scoop. I don’t think she uses it a lot, but it makes a great pick-lock to my sister’s room! (That was before I knew what it was used for.)

  2. I have heard one story about an ear cleaning gone wrong, though. A friend of mine, when she was much younger, was having her ears cleaned by her aunt and suddenly felt a sharp pain. That little slip of the scoop hurt a lot, and the dull ringing sound in her ear didn’t go away for months.

    Hopefully the hairdressers are more experienced.

  3. How does one use and clean an ear scoop properly?

  4. hei long Says: June 18, 2006 at 10:58 pm

    My wife uses her one about once or twice a week, but she always stresses “Dont touch me when im doing this or Ill go deaf!”. It is a chinese thing.

    ok, this is going to sound awful,
    Any one else notice a diffrence between the color of chinese ear wax and lao wai ear wax? It looks more yellow to me.

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