TikTok star 'Dr. Ear Wax' shares her journey to success
Audiologist Emily Taylor used a pandemic lull to pivot to social media and becomes a hit
Like so many, Dr. Emily Taylor, an audiologist in Maryland, downloaded the TikTok app, where users watch and share bite-sized videos, during the pandemic.
Opening the app was how she ended her days, unwinding while scrolling.
Then in September 2021, Taylor posted her first video under the handle @dr_ear_wax: Another audiologist in her practice was taking an impression of her ears in advance of her attending a music festival.
“I just grabbed my phone and started recording the impression being made on me,” says Taylor, owner of Taylor Listening Center. The TikTok continues, showing “the impression getting taken out, and then it pans to me at the concert putting in the plugs,” Taylor says.
From her initial post, Taylor’s TikTok has attracted millions—literally. DrEarWax has more than a million followers, and Taylor’s posts collectively have 26.1 million likes.
Drawn to audiology
“I always knew I wanted [to be in] the medical profession,” Taylor says—it was just a question of the exact capacity she’d take on.
She discovered audiology after a family friend recommended it. “I fell in love quickly,” Taylor remembers—her first introductory class was challenging and intriguing, and she was attracted to both the science behind the field, and the opportunity to work directly with patients.
More: What is an audiologist?
She opened her Pikesville, Maryland, practice, located just outside of Baltimore, immediately after earning her doctorate from Towson University in 2013.
And then the pandemic hit, and she created a hit, viral account. That was a surprise.
“I didn’t expect that to happen,” Taylor says.
“But I knew that it was something I was interested in doing and succeeding at so I made a plan early on to try to post two videos a day,” she says. Now, instead of scrolling through other people’s videos, she edits her own footage in those pre-bedtime hours.
As it turns out, TikTok rewards speed over production values.
“I have found that the more casual and the faster you make it, the better it does,” Taylor says. “I had all these big, sophisticated videos that I was doing that took two months to film and those got no attention. And the ones that I created in under three minutes [received] millions of views,” she recalls.
Taylor didn’t start as any kind of marketing whizz or TikTok authority. But “now it’s like a second language,” she says.
Taylor’s perseverance is clearly a key factor in her success. It can take time to get traction, she notes. “But I stuck with my plan and was doing two videos a day,” she says. Her TikTok ballooned from a hundred views to thousands and then millions. She is one of several very popular audiologists on TikTok, The Ear Girl and Dr. Elly are two other accounts with millions of views and followers.
Educating viewers on earwax—and so much more
At first, Taylor imagined her channel would professional earwax removal. What really took off: ear impressions. During the technique, a hearing specialist inserts a putty-like material in the ear canal. The resulting cast can be used for hearing aids with custom earmolds or for custom earplugs for hearing protection.
There’s something mesmerizing about watching an earmold get made. It’s like cake decoration videos, but more practical.
“I was then able to use [the ear molds] as an educational platform, talking about custom hearing protection, because that's something I'm really excited about,” Taylor says.
When she attends music festivals, she’s typically the lone person with hearing protection in place. To Taylor, it’s a problem that people don’t learn how to protect their ears in health class. “I didn’t understand why this wasn’t a conversation,” she says. “I went to concerts in high school and I now have tinnitus. I've had it ever since. So it's something important to me,” Taylor says.
Through her TikTok account, she’s made hearing protection into a topic people care about. Taylor engages followers with surveys and teasers. “And if I get the same question a lot, I'll make a video about it,” Taylor says—in fact, that’s what led to an entire series around tinnitus aka ringing in your ears.
Also popular (if contentious) are videos demonstrating why cotton swabs are not intended to clean your ear. “One of the other things I'm always talking about is to not use Q-tips...a really fiery topic on TikTok,” Taylor says. People have a hard time giving them up (witness this patient describing using them as “orgasmic”). But Taylor can take satisfaction in her efforts: People message her to mention they’ve chucked their supply and given up using cotton swabs in their ears.
Bringing audiology front and center
Her patients have been excited to participate in Taylor’s viral posts—interested ones sign a waiver before she posts anything about them, and often request to have their own social handles tagged in the video.
This kind of marketing, Taylor believes, is key. Of course, if you’re posting on TikTok, you’re reaching a wide audience—people around the world. Not just say, people near Taylor’s Baltimore-area practice.
Taylor’s posts have drawn in patients. “Social media is the marketing of the future,” she says. But marketing her practice is not her only goal.
“I also like being a resource for people,” Taylor says, noting that she can get upward of 30 questions a day. She responds to every single valid question. Sometimes, weeks later, people get in touch to tell her people went to an audiologist because of one of her videos, or got hearing aids, or made other health-changing moves.
That’s gratifying. And Taylor enjoys TikTok as a creative outlet.
“I want to keep doing it until I don't enjoy it anymore,” Taylor says.