Sinlung /
05 December 2012

Wax Work: Traditional Indian Ear Cleaners

 Who charge 25p to scrape out dirt and gunk with a needle

Wincing in pain, these Indian men are allowing a stranger to clean their ears in the street - with a steel needle and cotton wool.

Muhammad Abbas, 38, has made a living from cleaning peoples lug holes ever since his father taught him the trade.

His only tools are a sharp steel needle, a wad of cotton and a pair of pincers to remove any loose wax - all of which he stores in his hat as he roams Old Delhi's streets for custom.
Waxing lyrical: An Indian man forces a smile as his ears are given a thorough cleaning using a needle and cotton wool on the streets of Delhi Waxing lyrical: An Indian man forces a smile as his ears are given a thorough cleaning using a needle and cotton wool on the streets of Delhi
Tricks of the trade: The professional ear cleaners wrap the steel needle in cotton wool before sliding it into the customers ear Tricks of the trade: The cleaners wrap the steel needle in cotton wool before sliding it into the customer's ear canal
But he now claims the profession is a dying business, as younger generations opt to use ear buds instead.

He said: 'I was taught by my father, who in turn learnt it from his grandfather. Our family has been cleaning ears since the Mughal times.
'I clean 20-30 pairs of ears a day, but most of them are old customers. I rarely get younger people to clean their ears. They prefer to use ear buds.'
Delving in: Ear cleaner Mohammed Abbas, 38, tackles the dirty lobes of Rasheed Quereshi on the steps of Delhi's biggest mosque Jamia Masjid Delving in: Ear cleaner Mohammed Abbas, 38, tackles the dirty lobes of Rasheed Quereshi on the steps of Delhi's biggest mosque Jamia Masjid Pinpoint accuracy: Armed only with a steel needle, a wad of cotton and a pair of pincers, the ear cleaners roam the streets looking for customers Pinpoint accuracy: Armed only with a steel needle, a wad of cotton and a pair of pincers, the ear cleaners roam the streets looking for customers Dying trade: Partly due to the measly pay and also because of rising health consciousness among Indians, ear cleaners might soon be consigned to history the books Dying trade: Partly due to the measly pay and also because of rising health consciousness among Indians, ear cleaners might soon be consigned to history the books Popular: Nauseating as it might seem, millions of Indians swear by unlicensed practitioners Popular: Unhygienic as it might seem, millions of Indians swear by unlicensed practitioners
Mohhamed Abbas, 38, one of Delhi's notorious street ear cleaners
Sadanand, 35, cleans the ears of Sunil at Connaught Place in Delhi, India


Masters: Sadanand, 35, cleans the ears of Sunil at Delhi's Connaught Place (left) while Mohhamed Abbas, 38, (right) said his family has been cleaning ears since the Mughal times Muhammad earns anywhere between 20-50 rupees (25p to 60p) for cleaning one ear. The same procedure at a specialist ear clinic in the UK would set you back as much as £70.
The professional ear cleaners wrap the steel needle in cotton wool before sliding it into the customers ear.
After soaking up the wax, they then slowly remove the needle - before using the pincers to pick out any stray wax or cotton.
Probe a lobe: After soaking up the wax, they then slowly remove the needle - before using the pincers to pick out any stray wax or cotton Probe a lobe: After soaking up the wax, they then slowly remove the needle - before using the pincers to pick out any stray wax or cotton Despite the apparent dangers, most of Muhammad's customers are not worried about injury or infection Despite the apparent dangers, most of Muhammad's customers are not worried about injury or infection But despite the apparent dangers, most of Muhammad's customers are not worried about injury or infection.
Muhammad Aslam Qureshi, a customer who has been getting his ears cleaned for 17 years, said: 'I always get my years cleaned. Its very relaxing and it feels great. I have never had any problems with my ears any time.'
Another ear cleaner Sadanand, 35, who caters for upmarket customers in Connaught Place, New Delhi, claims business has been going down hill in recent years.
'When I started 20 years ago, I would clean up to 50 pairs of ears in a day. But, now I am lucky if I can convince even 20 people to get their ears cleaned.'
Cleaning ears is not a lucrative business, ear cleaners earn anything between 20 to 50 rupees - 25p to 60p - per ear Cleaning ears is not a lucrative business, ear cleaners earn anything between 20 to 50 rupees - 25p to 60p - per ear
Tools of the trade: Sadanand with his rudimentary equipment - a sharp steel needle wrapped with cotton wool and a pair of pincers to remove any loose wax Tools of the trade: Sadanand with his rudimentary equipment - a sharp steel needle wrapped with cotton wool and a pair of pincers to remove any loose wax

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