We’re sure you could think of a few ways to describe 2021, but ‘the year of earwax’ might come as a surprise to some. More web content was posted around earwax than ever before, with 15k mentions on social media and #earwaxremoval videos on TikTok getting a whopping 4.6 billion views by December 2021.

So why are we so earwax obsessed? Could it be that the nation’s ears are getting waxier? We’ve been digging around to find out.

Let’s talk about wax

What’s happened to bring earwax onto the nation’s radar? A big clue could be found in how our ways of living and working have changed since COVID. More and more people were using earbud headphones while working from home, staying indoors or taking up exercise and routine GP visits and removal services were put on hold.

Comparing search data from 2019 with 2021, we saw some interesting changes to suggest this was having an impact on people’s ears:

Impacted earwax searches increased by 94%

Impacted earwax searches increased by 94%

My ear has been clogged for a month increased by 1554%

My ear has been clogged for a month increased by 1554%

Clogged eustachian tube increased by 358%

Clogged eustachian tube increased by 358%

My ear is clogged increased by 257%

My ear is clogged increased by 257%

What’s the impact?

When earwax builds up and gets impacted, it creates a lovely environment for bacteria, which is great for them, but can ultimately lead to an ear infection. These increased searches (comparing 2019 and 2021) suggest that waxy ears were on the rise:

Increase in ‘ear infection symptoms in adults’ searches


Increase in ‘ear infection treatment’ searches


Increase in ‘ear infection symptoms’ searches

People were also paying more attention to the colour of their earwax. Earwax colour can tell us quite a lot about ear health, and with increased searches for particular colours (comparing 2019 and 2021 data), this could indicate that people were searching for infection symptoms without realising:


Increase in ‘black earwax’ searches


Increase in ‘blood in earwax’ searches


Increase in ‘green earwax’ searches


Increase in ‘red earwax’ searches

Where’s the waxiest town in the UK and Ireland?

The moment you’ve been dying to hear about – in the UK and Ireland we collected the most wax from the people of Weston-super-Mare and Dublin respectively. A crowning achievement we’re sure will go down in their books.

But it wasn’t just Weston-super-Mare and Dublin supplying the goods last year. Fans of a fun fact will be excited to hear that overall, we collected a whopping 120 litres of the stuff. If you’d rather not think about a giant vat of earwax, that also works out as the same weight as a tiger. Or six beavers. Or 120 meerkats.


Top areas of search

  • Ear candling
  • Black earwax

Which cities were waxing lyrical about earwax?

With lots of earwax-related searches going on, it’s interesting to see particular towns across the UK and Ireland had some very specific queries.

Click the green dots in the map above to see the where the waxiest searches were coming from.

Are the nation’s ears getting waxier?

Well, it’s unlikely that our ears are suddenly producing more earwax, but it could be that we’re starting to notice more build-up in our ears. But why now?

1. We had to play it by ear

Understandably, most of the professional removal services were either on hold or tied up during the pandemic. So it’s likely that people were putting their earwax issues on the backburner. Government funding changes in 2020 also took free wax removal off the list of services from some NHS local authorities, which led to a 317% increase in searches for ‘NHS earwax removal’ during 2021 compared to 2019

2. We’re plugging in more

There’s been a lot of activity in search when it comes to headphone use. In March 2020, we saw these terms featuring more:


Earbuds increased by 72% in 2020 // 2019


Earphones increased by 11% in 2020 // 2019


Headset increased by 94% in 2020 // 2019

This is right about when the UK and Ireland went into the first lockdown and people started working from home, suggesting that people were after this kind of equipment for their new at-home office set up.

And in 2021, rising searches continued for:


Earbuds which increased by 58%


Headset which increased by 42%

When we asked our customers1, many said they’d increased their headphone or earphone usage:

59% of 18-34 year olds
44% of 35-44 year olds
39% of 45-54 year olds
31% of 55-64 year olds

Their top reasons included listening to music, using them for phone calls or meetings, listening to podcasts and exercising.

What’s wax got to do with it?

Well, 32% of respondents who said their usage increased a lot also said they’d noticed an increase in their earwax and 21% of respondents who said their usage increased a bit also said they had noticed an increase in their earwax.2

It’s earbud and in-ear style earphones that make a difference here (which were the most-preferred option from our panel) as they create a barrier that stops the ears from self-cleaning and potentially causes impacted earwax. Lots of people spotted this happening, with a rise in searches for ‘do earphones cause earwax’ and ‘how to clean earbuds’. So if you’re spending a lot of your day using them, this could be the reason for your waxy ears.

3. Wired earphones aesthetic

Along with increased earphone usage came an interesting change in search terms on Pinterest, particularly among younger women into late 2021.

This graph shows the UK Pinterest search trends for ‘earphones aesthetic’ between January and December 2021.3

This impressive uptake comes as a number of celebrities and influencers were seen wearing wired earphones as a ‘retro’ fashion style (feel old yet?).

If that’s your style, go for it. We’d just recommend you keep an eye on your earwax.

How do you get rid of yours?

Comparing pre-pandemic searches to those of 2021, we saw a rise in overall earwax removal searches, with a 97% increase in ‘earwax removal’ and a 24% increase in ‘microsuction’ searches.

Should’ve left it to the professionals

Things started to get back on track in 2021. Understandably, a lot of general healthcare fell into the ‘do it yourself’ bracket in 2020 while services were facing the pandemic. In contrast, 2021 mainly saw a plateau or decline in ‘how to’ and ‘at home’ intent searches with an explosion in ‘near me’ searches instead. It’s clear that in 2021, many people were eager to leave earwax removal to the professionals.

Plus, with the uptake in people watching earwax removal videos, perhaps they were keen to see if they had a gold mine of earwax themselves.

Time for a word in your ear

From what we’ve seen around, people can get quite creative with their earwax removal (often a bit worryingly so). Since many of us had to make do with home remedies while professional services were reduced, we can forgive these. But now’s a good time for a friendly reminder that you should never put anything in your ears that’s smaller than your elbow. Basically, keep things out of there as they could increase your risk of developing an ear infection. And you don’t want one of those.

With a 478% increase in average monthly searches for ‘how to clean ears without q tips’ (2019 // 2021), it looks like more people were after a more eco-conscious option for keeping their ears clean. Especially after the government banned single-use plastic-stemmed cotton buds in October of 2020. Which is good news for the environment and good news for us, as cotton buds are not ideal to have around your ears.

Don’ts and definitely don’ts

Your ears are cleverly designed to sort out ear cleaning all on its own, without you needing to do anything. But when stubborn or impacted earwax needs a little help on its way, there are a few things to be wary of.

In particular, after a TikTok video of a woman using hydrogen peroxide to remove earwax went viral in August 2021, we saw a 105% increase in average monthly searches for ‘hydrogen peroxide earwax’ in 2021 compared to before the pandemic (2019).

This method falls into our ‘definitely don’ts’ category for safe earwax removal. Our audiology expert, Gordon Harrison, explains why:

“It’s not safe to put concentrated hydrogen peroxide solution into your ear because it can cause irritation and discomfort, temporary hearing loss, dizziness and tinnitus. Plus, if you already have an ear injury it may also cause infection or further pain. We’d only typically recommend using olive oil or Earol to soften earwax – hydrogen peroxide should only be used in the correct concentration and frequency, so it’s always best to just leave these things to the professionals.”

You can find all our tips and tricks for safely removing earwax here.

We love to see it…

2021 really sent people wacky for wax. Here are a few cultural moments that really caught the nation’s attention on social media.


Robbie Williams documents his earwax removal


Michael Rosen demands prize for most earwax produced


A myth-busting tweet from a doctor about why you shouldn’t use cotton buds to remove earwax was the tweet with the biggest reach around the topic


5k mentions of the topic on social across the year


4.6 billion worldwide views of #earwaxremoval videos on TikTok to date (by Dec 2021)


59,800 pages web pages published about earwax


105% increase in average monthly searches for ‘earwax colour’ in 2021 compared to 2019


6475% increase in searches for ‘earwax camera’ in 2021 compared to 2019 pre-pandemic


159% average monthly search increase for ‘ear wax removal videos’ compared to 2019


The most-watched wax removal YouTube video published in 2021 gathered 45 million views

Fancy a peek at some gross stuff?
Click to reveal what we can see during an earwax removal

(Warning, it’s graphic content)

earwax earwax earwax earwax

Why are earwax videos so satisfying?

If you’ve already got a penchant for pimple popping, you’ll probably understand the fascination with watching earwax removal. That can’t-look-away, freakishly satisfying feeling we get from watching gross things. Here’s why that might happen:

1. Keeps emotions in check

For every person that loves a pimple pop or earwax removal video, there’s always someone else who finds it totally disgusting. One study, looking specifically at pimple popping videos, found that the difference between these people can be down to how their brains regulate their disgust reaction.4 Disgust helps to protect us from things that could ultimately harm us, like rotting food or bad hygiene. When we watch videos of things like earwax removal or spot popping, some of us can separate that feeling from any potential harm (as we’re watching a video of someone we don’t know), resulting in a more positive experience.

2. A touch of morbid curiosity

Another reason the study found for our enjoyment in these kinds of videos is that it can trigger a response from the brain’s reward system.4 Some people are just more intrigued by the outcome of seemingly negative content.

3. Simple pleasures

To take your mind off the stresses of the pandemic, you might have turned to books, films, new hobbies or exercise regimes. But some people turned to the web for their cheer-up fix, with searches for ‘satisfying video’ increasing by 22% and ‘oddly satisfying videos’ going up by 84% between February and April 2020. That included earwax removal videos. In fact, ‘satisfying’ was the 11th-most mentioned word in relation to earwax last year.

Wax on, wax off

So, if you managed to get through all that without shuddering or slipping out a few ‘ewww’s, well done. If you loved it all, welcome to the club.

Over the last couple of years, a lot of you have revealed yourselves as earwax lovers, whether that’s watching removal videos to your heart’s content, or just giving your ears some more attention. Whichever camp you fall into, we’re glad earwax is having its moment – it’s really quite clever stuff.

If you want to know any more about it, we’ve got a whole hub full of earwax information. Or if you think it’s time you got your earwax checked out, you can book an appointment here.

Download the full report