Earwax plugs and ear hygiene have always been important concerns. Earwax plugs are the main reason for appointments with ENT specialists in most countries.
In France alone, it is estimated that 6 billion cotton buds are used per year, around 100 per person.
Instruments to remove earwax have been used since ancient times. A French saying from the Middle Ages goes: All good women should have a kit containing an earpick, a nail cleaner and a toothpick.
At the start of the 1920s the cotton bud made its first appearance. Its invention is down to a certain Leo Gerstenzang. In fact, he was inspired by how his wife treated his child; putting a piece of cotton over a toothpick to clean the child's ears. His invention was initially called Baby Gays and subsequently Q-Tip, which remains the generic name for cotton buds in the United States.
Historically, ear candles are another method used. This is a tradition from the Hopi native Americans.