Ear wax or cerumen is a natural substance that occurs in the outer ear. No matter how gross it looks, but ear wax is actually healthy. This is because ear wax helps to keep the insides of the ear clean.
Ear wax is made up of a combination of oil, sweat, dirt and dead skin cells. It is an indicator of your ear health. What you find as sticky and smelly and utterly appealing, is actually very essential for the ear.
Don’t believe me? Consider the following benefits of earwax-
- Acts as a barrier that prevents dirt and bacteria from entering the inner parts of the ears. Due to its stickiness, earwax traps the minute debris entering your inner canal. This protects the inner ear which would be otherwise at risk of various infections. (Also Read: Know the Do’s and Don’ts to Clean your Ears )
- Acts as a moisturizer and protective layer for the outer ear. Without this, the outer ear will become itchy and flaky which increases irritation and infection.
- Acts as an insect repellant. The smell keeps bugs away and the stickiness traps the ones which go inside accidentally.
Also Read: 15 Possible Causes of Ear Pain
Earwax Colors and Indication-
The color of earwax is indicative nature which means the color defines whether the ear is functioning normally or not. For instance, an off white to yellow earwax indicates that your infection is functioning normally. Mainly, earwax is of two types- wet and dry.
Here is a chart of different earwax colors and what they are indicative of.
|Normal Earwax||Abnormal Earwax|
|Off white||Fresh earwax||Yellow to green||Runny pus drainage from an infection|
|Orange||Fresh earwax||Green||Foul smell, significant ear infection|
|Darker orange||Sticky, flaky, older earwax with debris||Wax with streaks of blood||Scratch, injury, or bug bite in the ear canal or ruptured eardrum if wet and runny|
|Brown||Thick, sticky, very old earwax||Grey||A buildup of dust or other particles in the ear|
|Pale orange||Dry, old earwax||Black||Wax buildup, impacted earwax|
If you notice any signs of abnormal earwax buildup, visit an E.N.T doctor to get yourself tested.
How to clean ears?
When there is excessive secretion of earwax, it can block your ear canal. This causes a conductive hearing loss. Moreover, the first symptom that there is an earwax buildup is stuffiness inside the ears. Try the following tips to keep your ear clean.
- Do not use a cotton swab, hairpin or any sharp object to remove the earwax all by yourself. In an attempt to clean the ears, you might push the earwax deeper into the ear canal or even puncture the eardrum.
- When you clean the ears, put some drops of baby oil or commercial ear drops into the ear to soften the wax so that it can be easily removed.
- Avoid ear candling. Neither there are any proven benefits nor it is safe. You can burn yourself while trying this.
- Use a warm, soapy washcloth to wash the ear.
- Take a hot shower so that the warm water can soften and loosen the excess earwax.
- Try to clear the earwax with an over-counter ear cleaning kit. Remember to read the instruction manual thoroughly before using the kit.
- If you have a heavy earwax buildup, use a rubber bulb syringe to squirt water inside the ear canal.
When to see the doctor?
It is a good time to visit an E.N.T specialist when you have severe symptoms such as-
- Extreme earache
- Unable to hear properly (hearing loss)
- Continuous ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
- Smelly discharge
After a proper diagnosis, if the doctor finds the symptoms are due to perforated eardrum or any other condition, he would recommend a tympanoplasty surgery. You can also visit our clinics if you have abnormal earwax or any abnormal discharge.