Sunday, February 17, 2013

So you're telling me I need to stick a vacuum cleaner in my ear? 

I have a weird thing about my ears. I was traumatized at an early age by an especially gory lesson in second grade, along with a well-meaning student teacher who probably didn't realize how literally kids can take things. 

I don't remember the student teacher's name, but I can still picture her: a slightly plump woman of about twenty with fair skin and shoulder-length strawberry blond hair. She took over our Health and Safety class to teach the unit on ears, which basically boiled down to: "Don't stick anything smaller than your elbow into your ear." When she opened up the floor for discussion, she asked us if we knew what could happen to us if we didn't heed this advice. 

One boy raised his hand and said, "If you stick something up there you could pop your eardrum and bleed to death." 

"Yes," said Miss What's-Her-Name, nodding solemnly. "That's why you never stick anything into your ear."

Now, I've always been a bit squeamish, but I was a lot worse as a youngster. I remember not being able to hear the word "spinal cord" without getting all woozy. I went through a phase where I couldn't stand anyone squeezing my hand because I thought my veins would pop right through my skin. So after a week of looking at diagrams of the inner ear and learning about tympanums and ear infections and gross yellow ear wax and one kid sharing a story about his two-year-old brother getting a pea lodged in his ear (WTF?), it's safe to say I was thoroughly squicked out by all things ear-related.

Seriously, what's with that thing that looks like a snail?
Ears are gross.
I became extremely neurotic about my ears. In the bath at night, I would lightly dab at the area all around my ears, not wanting to get any soap or water in there, because now I knew that one wrong move and my eardrums would pop  like over-inflated balloons, and then I'd have to go to the hospital with blood dripping down the sides of my face and then I'd go deaf and then I'd have to wear hearing aids--scary-looking hunks of plastic that my parents would probably insist on me wearing all the time. 

Nope, I didn't need that. 

My mom soon noticed my strange aversion to cleaning out my ears, and she wasn't having it. No child of hers was going to go around with crusty ears, even if I screamed bloody murder every time she grabbed me out of the bath to give my ears a thorough scrubbing with witch hazel and cotton balls. That was nothing compared to the meltdown I had a few months later when she took me to the pediatrician for my yearly check-up and he broke out that horrible contraption (otoscope?), jammed it in my ear and pumped air into it like some sort of barbaric medieval prison torture. I really thought that bastard was trying to kill me. 

Happily, I grew out of my ear phobia eventually. When it comes to ear care and maintenance nowadays, I've actually gone in the opposite direction. In fact, it isn't uncommon for me to painstakingly swab out my ears with Q-Tips several times a day, even though the general consensus now is that doing so just pushes wax further into the ear, meaning that I'll probably be deaf by the time I'm like 45. I know this, but it's hard to stop. It's satisfying, like I'm scratching an itch that isn't really itchy, yet still feels good to scratch.

Even though it skeeves me out a bit, I do find the concept of the Wax Vac morbidly fascinating. I wonder if it would suck out all the wax that I've been pushing into my ear. I also wonder if--once my ears are vacuumed free of all that icky debris--I'll suddenly acquire superhuman hearing. John isn't impressed with this theory. He thinks the Wax Vac is a bad idea, saying it would be too easy to perforate the eardrums with an apparatus like that (i.e. explode them like a balloon--ouchy ouchy ouch!). At the very least, it could be like 99% of those As-Seen-On-TV products: a completely and utter rip-off.

Unsurprisingly, there is a shitload of other bizarre ear-cleaning gizmos out there. The weirdest (and most dangerous-looking) I've found online are ear scoops, which are apparently a big thing in Asian countries. There are even child-size ear scoops with LED lights, the better for anal retentive mothers to scrape out every last ear cootie molecule. 

I even found a cute little teddy bear ear scoop that comes complete with its own holder. 

On closer inspection, it looks to be some sort of cuddly angel-bear-mouse hybrid.
Come to think of it, maybe I will stick to my several-times-daily Q-Tip regimen. What's the worst that could happen? 

John Cusack's finest hour. Seriously, I love this movie.


1 comment:

Ms Sparrow said...

You poor kid! It must have been awful to think your ear drums were explosive! Not that I didn't have some weird childhood beliefs of my own. I thought I was basically a bag of blood and that's why I would bleed no matter where I got a cut. I believed that if I had a sore. I could pinch it to make it hurt and get all the pain out at once. I also thought that I would only be able to fall asleep a certain number of times in my life and after that I'd never be able to fall asleep again.