The Joys of Ear Picking


What’s that you say?! Ear picking???

Most of our white friends give us one of those what-the-freak-are-you-talking-about-you-are-not-who-I-thought-you-were looks when we talk about it. But if you’re Asian, you get it.

So instead of giving our friends another weird look back, we decided to spend some time and educate those who have not experienced the joys of the ear pick. Like the description that follows, our son LOVES it and it has become a special thing that happens between he and his mom.

If you have any ear picking/cleaning stories of your own, please share! In the meantime, have fun with the following and don’t get too grossed out with the video – it is actually quite captivating.

Cultural Aspects

Ear picks are a commonly used item and preferred for ear wax removal in East Asia. The dry type of ear wax found in persons of Asian extraction is particularly amenable to this type of removal, more so than the wet type of ear wax found in people of Caucasian or African origin.

It can be used individually or by another person. The person having their ears cleaned would lie down with their head in the lap of the person doing the cleaning. It is generally considered a pleasant feeling, like having one’s back scratched. The cleaning of ears is thus considered an act of intimacy, often performed by a mother to a child or, among adults, by one’s lover.

Scientific Explanation

According to LiveScience:

“A new study reveals that the gene responsible for the drier type originated in an ancient northeastern Asian population.

Today, 80 to 95 percent of East Asians have dry earwax, whereas the wet variety is abundant in people of African and European ancestry (97 to 100 percent).

Populations in Southern Asia, the Pacific Islands, Central Asia, Asia Minor, and Native North Americans and Inuit of Asian ancestry, fall in the middle with dry wax frequencies ranging from 30 to 50 percent.

Researchers identified a gene that alters the shape of a channel that controls the flow of molecules that directly affect earwax type. They found that many East Asians have a mutation in this gene that prevents cerumen, the molecule that makes earwax wet, from entering the mix.

Scientists believe that the mutation reached high frequencies in Northeast Eurasia and, following a population increase, expanded over the rest of the continent. Today distribution of the gene is highest in North China and Korea.

Wet earwax is believed to have uses in insect trapping, self-cleaning, and prevention of dryness in the external auditory canal of the ear. It also produces an odor and causes sweating, which may play a role as a pheromone.

The usefulness of dry earwax, however, is not well understood. Researchers believe it may have originated to prevent less odor and sweating, a possible adaptation to the cold climate that the population is believed to have lived in.

The research is detailed in the Jan. 29 online edition of the journal Nature Genetics.”

According to: AsianOffBeat

“Japanese researchers believe that earwax type and armpit odor are correlated, since populations with dry earwax, such as those of East Asia, tend to sweat less and have little or no body odor, whereas the wet earwax populations of Africa and Europe sweat more and so may have greater body odor. Several Asian features, such as small nostrils and the fold of fat above the eyelid, are conjectured to be adaptations to the cold. Less sweating, the Japanese authors suggest, may be another adaptation to the cold climate in which the ancestors of East Asian peoples are thought to have lived.”

Images of Ear Cleaners

This looks a little dangerous to me.

This looks a little dangerous to me.

Maybe not as dangerous looking - but kinda weird all the same.

Maybe not as dangerous looking - but kinda weird all the same.

Something a mother could love

Something a mother could love

Video of Ear Cleaners

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