VIDEO: Odd Jobs: Ear Cleaners of Delhi, India

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Last Updated on July 22, 2013 by Christine Kaaloa

ear cleaners in india
VIDEO: Ear Cleaners of Delhi, India.
It’s a dirty job but somebody’s got to do it. (video clip below)


India has a lot of odd jobs and different types of wallahs to service it’s every need.

So much that you can say, that ‘man’ is India’s greatest technology.

From chai wallahs to bring you coffee, dobhis to do your laundry, rickshaw wallahs to cart you around town, dhabis to deliver lunch tiffens, jhadoos that sell broomsthe wallah jobs are endless and unfathomable. For me, they’re also intriguing. I’m fascinated by how they do their job with such detail and intricacy, like specialists.

In many cases, wallah jobs are actual “professions”, handed down through generations and crafted with more accuracy and efficiency than it appears on the surface.  The jobs aren’t easy, it’s manual work and the pay is just above the poverty line.

So here’s one more of those odd jobs to throw into the world bucket…

Odd Jobs: The Ear Cleaners of India

The ear cleaners of India –otherwise known as “kaane maliye“–  hang out on the streets of Delhi, cleaning dirty ears with a pointed steel needle, cotton swab and tweezers. You’ll see them wearing red cloth caps, with their instruments peeking from under their caps or stuck behind their ear.

Chandni Chowk is one of my favorite hangouts whenever I visit Delhi. Taking rest from the Indian sweatbox outside, I sat in an air-conditioned McDonalds, sipping on a diet coke, watching these ear cleaners go to work. The metal picks they use are intimidating. An ear drum is a fragile thing. But some Indians would approach them and get their ears cleaned, thinking nothing of it. The ear cleaner would go to work, pulling out a gobs of wax, showing it to the client, and then flicking it off. These men aren’t squeamish about touching human ear wax at all.

Why didn’t I try it? Those steel needles looked scary and I like having two ears. Not to mention, they don’t appear to sterilize them.

Ear cleaning in India is a profession that’s been handed down for ages, since Mughal times.

It was once said that if you wanted to hear the latest court gossip, you’d go to either, the ear cleaners or the barber. Sounds perfectly logical to me.

 Like many manual trades, the ear cleaning profession is passed down through generations.   Ear cleaners are road-side practitioners. Similar to a sidewalk barber and street dentists,  they service a large part of the population which can’t afford expensive medical practices and salons.

But these days  the profession is also a dying trade.   Maybe it’s due to youth gravitating towards higher paying jobs or the public has become more sensitive to hygiene. Perhaps, India has discovered more affordable Qtip cotton  swabs… But ear cleaners claim they aren’t as prolific as they once were .

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.’ said one cleaner to Daily Mail UK.

Ear cleaners make 25-50 ruppees per ear and on a good day, one can average $5/day, which is just above India’s poverty line.

Watch the video below and feel free to leave comments. Unfortunately, I was too shy to get closer to them to get a really good shot of what they do, but this clip may give you an idea.

VIDEO: Ear Cleaners of Delhi, India

 What do you think? Would you get your ears cleaned by one of these ear cleaners of India? Share your thoughts- yay or nay.

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  • yay! I had it. And its safe. Let the culture live and give some livelihood to them, they are enemies who will damage our ears. they’ve done very nice

  • Im an Indian (South Indian) this is an Odd job here too but it makes me little worried to go for that 😀

  • Thanks for sharing this odd job in India. Ear cleaners seem like they may service travelers just as much as locals, and for different prices, most likely.

  • Wow, that is a new one. I think I would do it just out of curiosity, but I would definitely wait, watch, and pick one who I’d seen clean some ears to make sure no one left bloody!

  • I tried it in Chengdu – it felt so good. I was only brave enough because we were on a tour w Fuchsia Dunlop and she said it was ok and I trust her. And she was right – it was fine.[email protected]/8147824418/in/photolist-dpZJkm-dpZw1x

    • @Debbie ann: First, apologies if you got my newsletter, when I said I was going monthly. Still working out the bugs of switching it over. Second, damn, I bow down to your traveler bravery! Also, looove how that man is in a suit, has that flashlight taped on & you look like you’re being tickled. Thanks for sharing! That’s right, I forgot China had them too.

      • not sure if I got your newsletter, but instead of google reader I’ve been using inoreader and your posts are showing up on there. I think I wouldn’t have been brave enough without a personal recommendation. In Uganda we saw roadside pedicures, and lots of men getting their toenails cut.

        • @Debbie Ann: Interesting. Haven’t heard of inoreader, but I take it’s working well. Wow, that’s crazy about the roadside pedicures. I take it your guide didn’t recommend that. 😉 Whatever tour you’re on, I want to be on it~ seems like you’re seeing/experiencing some neat stuff.

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