Earwax is not the most glamorous thing to talk about (it’s quite gross as a matter of fact), but it can reveal a lot about the goings-on inside the body. Similarly, the consistency and color of your urine, saliva, mucus, or stool can indicate things, both good and bad, that are happening in the body. People clean their ears and never know what the color and consistency of the earwax means!
Just like mucus, earwax has a job to do; it isn’t just there in your ears. Earwax works to inhibit bacteria and dirt from entering the ear canal. It is also a self-cleaning agent that contains antibacterial, lubricating, and protective properties. Because of these properties, experts agree to leave earwax alone, unless there is a serious blockage. Chewing and other jaw movements actually decrease earwax buildup within the ear canal. This explains why little clumps of earwax can fall out of your ears at random.
Stop Using Cotton Swabs:
Poking around inside the ear with a cotton swab is not recommended. You can damage the delicate skin in the ear canal, introduce foreign invaders, or even puncture the eardrum. Swab incidents are more common than you think. Rather than causing earwax blockages, do yourself a favor and tilt your head to the side, put a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in your ear, and let is remove earwax buildup before draining it out.
If you see that you have gray earwax, it can most commonly be attributed to an accumulation of dust. This can indicate that you live in a polluted area if you don’t experience pain or other symptoms.
Earwax has a natural odor because it consists of oils, which are produced by the ear canal, dust, dirt, or dead skin cells; however, it should not be foul smelling. Stinky earwax often indicates an infection of the middle ear or ear canal. You may experience greenish earwax, depending on where the infection occurs. If you notice a foul smell from your earwax before experience symptoms like pain or balance issues, you may want to get an ear exam.
Flaky earwax does not mean that you are sick. In fact, it is a common sign of aging because the sebaceous and apocrine glands in the ears (these are responsible for earwax production) shrink and become drier with age. On the other hand, it can also indicate eczema, which can cause a build-up of dead skin cells in the ears. If the flakiness is accompanied by pain, then it may be a symptom of psoriasis. According to research in the Nature Genetics journal, people of Asian descent commonly have dry earwax, while people of African or European descent develop sticky or “wet” earwax.
Itchy ears are more common than you think, but it can become a serious problem if you feel the need to stick objects in the ear canal for relief. This can cause trauma to the ear canal. While this can be a nervous habit, common causes can be a fungal infection, the beginning of an infection, dermatitis, or allergies. Intense itching can cause abrasions, which can become irritated by bacteria or dirt.
Watery earwax typically indicates excess sweat in the ears, which is no cause for concern. If earwax drips onto your pillow at night or leaves crusty residue in the ear, however, you may want to consult a medical professional because the eardrum may be torn or ruptured.