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Last Updated: Jan 10, 2023

Earwax - Did You Know Its Color Can Say A Lot About Your Health?

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Dr. Amit BeniwalGeneral Physician • 20 Years Exp.MBBS, MD - Medicine, Masters In Evidence Based Medicine
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Remember how Shrek literally pulled out a candle from his ear for the dinner table? Ever tried doing it yourself? Well, the stuff in your ears may be called wax, but it can’t really be used to make a candle. However, it certainly can signify a lot about your health. Though the idea of discussing earwax is rather disgusting, it actually plays a pivotal role in keeping your ears healthy and functioning. Earwax protects your eardrums by barring the entry of insects, fungi, bacteria, dust and bacteria. In clinical terms, earwax is also known as cerumen. 

Studies indicate that children typically produce more earwax than adults. The earwax in your ear is a combination of alcohol, shed layers of the ear, unsaturated and saturated long-chain fatty acids and squalene. In order to clean earwax, you should not insert objects too deep in your ear, instead, you can just wipe it off with a cotton swab.  The color and texture of the earwax removed can actually indicate your overall health condition, stress level, genetic ancestry, etc.

Know what your earwax color says about your health 

  1. Pale yellow to yellow earwax: It is the most common type of earwax and indicates overall good health. Children typically produce soft, pale yellow earwax and in case of adults, the color should remain the same, but the texture tends to be sticky. 
  2. Wet vs. dry earwax: Wet and dry are the genetically determined earwax types, wherein, the 'wet type' is dominant and the 'dry type' is recessive. A research, conducted on Biologic variation in health and illness: race, age, and sex differences (1985) by Overfield, Theresa, established that dry-type earwax indicates East Asian and Native American ancestry, while wet-type indicates African and European. 
  3. Thick, dark and black colored earwax: The production of earwax is also influenced by your stress level i.e. when you are stressed out, the glands that are responsible for the production of earwax work overtime and produce excess amount of earwax. As this earwax collects, it can turn thicker and darker thus, this type of earwax is a sign of increased stress level. And, black colored earwax indicates that it has been accumulating in your ears for quite some time and has not been cleaned. To avoid this, it is essential to clean your ears from time to time and in the right way. 
  4. Dry, gray earwax: The gray color of the wax is an indication of dust build-up and must be cleaned properly at regular intervals. However, if your earwax suddenly seems dry and brittle, it could be the sign of a skin infection. Dry earwax accompanied by itchiness in the ear is usually a sign of eczema.
  5. Bloody earwax: Blood in the earwax should never be ignored. This could be caused by an ear infection or can be a sign of ruptured eardrum and you must consult your doctor immediately. 

Thus it is important that you take proper care of your ears so as to ensure that your hearing is maintained and although earwax protects your ears against infections and problems, it must be cleaned from time to time. It is advisable that you get your ears cleaned professionally, in case you are suffering from certain ailments such as Diabetes.


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