By Inverse Video
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In a popular Reddit video, a girl blows vape smoke out of her right ear instead of her mouth or nose. How is this possible? Magic? CGI? Nope: ear tubes, baby. Well, ear tubes when she was a baby. Let’s get into it.

Your ears are connected to your mouth, specifically to a cavernous space behind your nose and above your mouth known as the nasopharynx, through passages called eustachian tubes. These tubes connect the nasopharynx to the middle ear (the area behind your eardrum) and allow air to flow in and out of this space.

When you feel your ears get “full” on an airplane, or when you change external pressure environments, it’s because the atmospheric pressure on the outside of your body/in your ear canal is different than the pressure in your middle ear. Your eustachian tubes alleviate this pressure by briefly opening up to allow the air to stabilize. This is more commonly known as ear-popping, and you can trigger it by chewing gum, swallowing water, or by holding your nose and blowing — although this last method is dangerous and discouraged by doctors.

In addition to allowing air through, the eustachian tubes can also let liquid in and out of your middle ear. This is important for when you have water stuck in your ear, but also when you have an ear infection. If you’ve ever had one, then you know ear infections can be beyond painful. This pain is caused by a build-up of bacteria in your middle ear behind your eardrum.

inner ear diagram

Normally, the eustachian tubes can open up and allow this bacteria to drain into the back of your throat. (Gross, I know, but trust me, it’s way better than an ear infection.) However, if the eustachian tube becomes inflamed, or is just too narrow to allow all the bacteria out — as a child’s might be — then you are left with a stabbing pain that just won’t quit.

This is where ear tubes come in. Doctors can poke a small hole in your ear drum and place a tiny plastic pipe called a myringotomy tube inside. These guys are tiny; they’re about a third of the size of a sesame seed. By placing these tubes inside your eardrum, doctors can create a new evacuation route for the bacteria in your inner ear and voila! No more infection.

Under normal circumstances, these tubes fall out on their own within a couple of years, and the eardrum patches itself up. However, that’s not always the case.

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Since children and infants have smaller eustachian tubes, they are at a higher risk for ear infections. The girl in this video probably had a few instances of ear infections as a kid that left her with a tiny hole in her eardrum for good. This isn’t necessarily a huge health risk on its own, however, blowing anything out of it, including vape smoke, probably isn’t a good idea. But still, by keeping vapor at the back of her throat, holding her nose and popping her ears, the ear vape girl is able to push the smoke up her eustachian tube, into her middle ear, and then out of her ear canal.

It’s not magic. It’s just gross.