Earwax, quite like the name suggests, is a waxy substance. For the geeks who’d like to know, it is technically called cerumen. Though it appears messy and sticky, earwax serves a protective function in the human body. It collects all the dirt and dead skin from the outer ear and forms this wax-like substance to make sure that no unnecessary and harmful particles enter into the middle and inner ears.
It also protects the eardrum from acoustic trauma, injuries, and infections. The color of the earwax varies from person to person and essentially speaks about the person’s genetic origin. It also shows the amount of secretions produced by the apocrine glands (the glands that secrete an oil-like substance to form earwax) and suggests the presence of a possible medical condition. Find out what your earwax can tell about your health.
1. YELLOW, MOIST, AND STICKY
This color and consistency are considered to be optimum. The right amount of moisture in the wax ensures sufficient lubrication. Also, this sort of consistency is most efficient in stopping foreign particles from entering the more sensitive parts of the middle and inner ears. However, children produce paler and a more liquidy earwax, and there is nothing to be alarmed about. It is quite natural, and as children grow older, the color of the wax becomes darker.
2. DARK AND GOOEY
If your sweat is smelly, you tend to produce earwax that is not only darker in appearance but is also moist and sticky in texture. Also, the apocrine glands that produce the earwax begin to synthesize significant amounts of wax when the body is going through physical and mental stress. Consider this to be a cautionary signal to keep a check on your stress levels.
3. WHITE (DRY AND SCALY)
If you find your earwax white in color, and hard and dry in texture, this surprisingly means your sweat does not have a strong odor. The substance present in earwax that makes it look dark brown is apparently the same thing that causes body odor. Who would have thought of a connection between something like earwax and body odor? Anyway, also note that, in certain cases, psoriasis can cause the wax to become scaly or flaky. Do not hesitate to seek medical help if you find your earwax unusually dry.
4. DARK BROWN OR BLACK
IVery dark or even black earwax is again a call to keep your stress levels as low as possible. Too much anxiety and the consequential overproduction of earwax causes it to be this dark. Also, when there is a high amount of wax build-up, it reacts with the atmospheric oxygen and becomes black. It is a reminder to book an appointment and reach out to the physician before the wax becomes too hard. If you don’t clean the wax regularly, you might end up blocking the ear canal. The accumulated build-up is not only painful while cleaning but also causes significant impairment in hearing if neglected.
5. EARWAX WITH RED BLOOD OR CLOTTED BLOOD
If you find traces of blood or experience profuse bleeding while cleaning your ear, it is quite likely due to the rupturing of the tympanic membrane, commonly known as the eardrum. Also, there could be a possibility of bleeding from the skin of the outer ear. Either way, blood in earwax is a warning sign, and you must visit the doctor as soon as you can. A visit immediately after the bleeding starts can be beneficial because this makes it easy for the doctor to detect the source of bleeding. It is also suggested to avoid using cotton swabs, or any other cleaning methods like candling without medical supervision as this only worsens the problem.
6. WATERY OR RUNNY EARWAX
If the earwax is runny, it is primarily due to fluid discharge from the ear. This discharge could be because of bacterial and fungal infections in the inner, middle or outer ears. Sometimes, fluid discharge from the ear also occurs when a person spends too much time in water or other moist areas, such as swimmers. It is important to keep the ear sufficiently moist, but not to the extent that they become susceptible to ear infections. Also, a sudden physical trauma, being exposed to loud sounds, for instance, can also cause ear discharge. However, it is always better to visit the physician before jumping to conclusions and panicking.
Now that you know what your earwax is trying to tell you about your body, be more conscious of it and save yourself from any serious health risks that you might have to deal with later. Timely check-ups and less exposure to water and other foreign bodies that prove to pose long-term damage will help in maintaining the right color and consistency of your earwax. It also helps in maintaining proper ear hygiene. Pick that swab up and tell us what your earwax is revealing about your body.