Earwax is a normal thing that everyone has.  It is a waxy substance that isn’t really wax at all.  It just gets its name from the sticky texture that it is.  Earwax is produced by the glands in the ear canal.  It is a mixture of dead skin cells, dirt, fatty acids, squalene, alcohols, and cholesterol. 

There are two main types of earwax.  Wet earwax or dry earwax.  Which type you have depends on your genetics, just like your eye or hair color.  


Health Benefits Of Earwax

Earwax does a lot of different things for your inner ear.  First off it protects it from dirt and bacteria.  It also can help protect against fungal infections. 

Earwax also works as a moisturizer and protective coating for your inner ear.  Too little earwax can cause your outer ear to feel itchy and flaky.  While working like a moisturizer, earwax stops the ears from drying out. 

Earwax also helps in acting as an insect repellant.  The smell of earwax stops random insects from flying into your ear.  


The Color Of Your Earwax

Earwax can range in color.  Usually the color of your earwax is of little concern to your healthcare provider.  Earwax can range from off-white, yellow, orange, light brown, or dark brown. 

If your earwax is green it could mean there is an ear infection

Black earwax may be an indicator of impacted earwax. 

Brown earwax with streaks of red in it can mean there is an injury inside the ear canal. 

A runny discharge coming from the ear may be a sign of a ruptured eardrum. 


Ears Are Self-Cleaning

Your ears are self-cleaning.  This means that cleaning your earwax out may be completely unnecessary.  Don’t try to stick your finger, cotton swab, or even the end of your pencil in your ear to try to clean it out.  An overly clean ear can be an unhealthy ear. 

Too little earwax is bad because there is no barrier for your inner ear.  This can leave your inner ear more vulnerable to dirt, bacteria, and even bugs. 

Too much earwax though can be harmful as well.  It can lead to an earwax impaction which can cause symptoms such as decreased hearing, dizziness, ear pain, a fullness sensation, ringing in the ears, cough, earache, itchiness, drainage, foul smell, or fever. 

The main cause of an earwax impaction is from using too many cotton swabs to clean out your ear.  Using a cotton swab can get the surface wax out, but it can actually push wax back deep into the ear canal where it can’t drain on its own.  Earwax impaction can also occur for people who use hearing aids, or earplugs regularly. If you experience severe spinning sensations, loss of balance, the inability to walk, persistent vomiting, or high fever seek medical help.


Earwax Impaction

Your doctor will be able to diagnose an earwax impaction from listening to your symptoms and looking in your ear with an otoscope.  If your doctor sees you have impacted wax there are some ways he can treat you.  Treatment usually can be done in the office. 

One way your doctor can get rid of your excess earwax is using a curette, or a small looking spoon to scoop the wax out.  Another way is with irrigation, warm water and sodium bicarbonate solution to loosen the earwax and flush it out.  Another option your doctor may have is using gentle suction to remove the wax. 

Complications from impacted earwax are a perforated eardrum, middle ear infection, external ear infection, or permanent hearing loss from acoustic trauma. 


Tips To Safely Clean Your Ears

There are ways for you to clean your ears at home.  One is to buy an over the counter ear cleaning kit.  This usually comes with some irrigation drops and syringe to help you flush out your ear after using the drops for a few days. 

Another way you can clean your ears at home is by using a few drops of baby oil to help loosen up the earwax.  After letting the baby oil sit for a little bit using a rubber bulb syringe with warm water to rinse everything out.  After rinsing with the water, tip your head to the side to allow everything to drain out. 

If you are prone to infections or swimmers’ ears, add a drop or two of rubbing alcohol to help dry up any leftover water in your ear canal. 

It is not recommended to use the earwax candle kits, it has been shown ineffective, as well as dangerous to burning of the skin, or catching your hair on fire. 



Not all hearing loss is due to earwax buildup.  If you have noticed some hearing loss you will want to speak to a healthcare provider who can do a hearing test on you. 

Everyone has earwax, how much earwax you produce, what color it is, and the type of ear wax you have is all determined by genetics. 

If you have an odd shaped ear canal your ear may have trouble draining its wax naturally.  If it becomes a persistent problem your doctor may prescribe you some softening agents to help your earwax drain appropriately. 

Too much or too little earwax can lead to an unhealthy ear.  

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