What Does Your Earwax Color Mean?
Earwax, or cerumen, is a normal, naturally occurring substance that helps your ear stay healthy. Earwax helps to prevent debris, dirt, and other things from entering the ear canal, and also helps to prevent infection. In fact, the ears are self-cleaning, and old earwax, along with dead skin cells, gets moved from inside the ear to the ear opening, where it eventually falls out.
Earwax can vary in color, in shades of yellow, white, brown, and even black. It can be soft, hard, or flaky. There’s a lot of variation with earwax, depending on several variables.
In general, when earwax builds up, it naturally gets forced out of the ear. Sometimes our bodies overproduce earwax, especially if we’re stressed or afraid. If there is an overproduction, and it doesn’t get forced out of the ear, it can cause a blockage.
Common earwax colors
There are two common types of earwax:
• yellow-brown, which tends to be wet
• white-gray, which is dry
The color of earwax can vary, depending on a person’s ethnicity and health. One study found that dry earwax is common among people of East Asian descent. Wet earwax is common among people of most other ethnicities. This is because of a mutation of a gene that aids in making the earwax wet
The Color And Texture Of Your Earwax Reveals Everything About Your Health
Like most body fluids, earwax is seldom talked about. However, the color and texture of the stuff inside our ears can tell some very interesting things about our health and how the rest of our bodies work.
Other than being surprisingly interesting, earwax actually serves an important purpose for our health. According to Clear Ear, its scientific name is “cerumen.”
Technically, earwax is made up of long-chain fatty acids, squalene and alcohols that provide a waterproof lining preventing infection, among other things.
The purpose of earwax is to protect the hollow hole that is our ear canals from bacteria and debris. Earwax is our body’s way of keeping the bad stuff out of our ears and trapping dead skin cells. With the help of wax, our ears stay clean, healthy and functional.
Of course, knowing that earwax is a helpful substance doesn’t stop our urge to clear out our ear canals once in a while.
However, the doctors at the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery do not recommend the use of cotton swabs or any other foreign objects as ear-cleaning tools.
Scroll down to see what your earwax says about you!
How Should I Safely Clean My Ears?
Before anyone reaches for a cotton swab, it’s important to know how to safely clean your ears.
A cotton swab should never be inserted into the ear canal. In fact, your ears have their own way of self cleaning by pushing out wax on their own.
Sometimes this can cause earwax to build up on the external part of the ear, which can be gently cleaned using a cotton swab or wet cloth.
Resist all urges to place a foreign object inside your ear canal.
Earwax Type #1: Soft And Pale Yellow
Wax that is soft and yellow in texture most often belongs to children, according to WebMD.
It is normal and healthy for children to produce a lot more earwax than adults. As children grow older, they will produce less.
Earwax Type #2: Wet, Sticky, And Yellow
Wet and sticky yellow earwax is one of two common varieties of cerumen found in most people.
The wet and sticky texture is especially good at lubricating the ear canal, which prevents them from being dry and itchy.
Earwax Type #3: Dark And Sticky
Dark earwax is indicative of the way your body releases sweat.
The darker in color it is, the more likely you are to have a chemical in your sweat that’s linked to your ability to produce body odor.
People with darker earwax have a tendency to produce more body odor than people with lighter wax.
However, both varieties are perfectly healthy.
Earwax Type #4: White, Dry, And Flaky
naturally push it out of the ear canal, a wax buildup can occur.
Too much earwax can cause a blockage, leading to temporary hearing loss.
Earwax Type #6: Dark Brown Or Black
While black or very dark brown wax is scary looking, it is probably no cause for alarm.
Dark earwax could be a sign of the overproduction of wax from stress as mentioned above.
It is also a sign that it has been in your ear for a while. The fats in your earwax react to oxygen, causing the substance to darken. The longer the wax is in your ear canal, the more oxygen it’s exposed to, leading to a darker hue.
Earwax Type #7: Bloody Wax
It is normal for older and darker earwax to have a similar appearance to blood.
However, it could also be an indication of a ruptured or perforated ear drum.
To be safe, it’s best to see a doctor immediately.
Earwax Type #8: Wet And Runny
It is normal for ear wax to leak from the ear canal from time to time in small degrees, as this is your ear’s natural cleaning mechanism.
However, large volumes of drainage with blood and pus in them is a sure sign of a ruptured or perforated ear drum.
Again, see a doctor immediately.
Earwax Type #9: Gray
If your earwax is usually the wetter, stickier type, but you notice it’s looking gray in color, it is likely the result of dust build up.
The gray might look unusual, but it’s just a sign of earwax doing its job by protecting your eardrum from foreign objects.
On the other hand, if the gray wax is accompanied by cracking, dry or itchy skin inside the ear canal, it could be seborrheic eczema. A doctor can provide treatment in this case.
It’s kind of gross. But you can learn a lot about what’s going on inside your body by paying attention to the stuff it produces.
The color and consistency of your pee, poop, saliva, and mucus can signal potential health issues—or reassure you that all’s well. The same is true of the stuff that oozes out of your ears, though experts say your earwax isn’t as informative as a lot of people assume. (Looking to take back control of your health? Prevention has smart answers—get two FREE gifts when you subscribe today.)
“To be honest, earwax doesn’t warrant a lot of attention in our practice,” says Brett Comer, M.D., an assistant professor and otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doc) at the University of Kentucky.
Earwax helps keep dirt and bacteria from getting too far inside your ear canal. “People seem to worry about it a lot, and they ask if they’re making too much or too little, or about the color,” he says. “But it’s not like snot where those little things can tell us a lot.”