Earwax Guide: Colour, Consistency, and Smell

18 Sep
Earwax Guide - what your ear wax color means - Deeside Ear Care

Earwax – it’s one of those things that we all know about but largely try to ignore. However, earwax is actually a vitally important part of our body’s naturally cleansing processes, and as such, ensuring your earwax is healthy is important. Fortunately, we’ve outlined some of the most critical things you need to know about earwax in this earwax guide and its normal properties to help you ensure that everything is working as it should.

What is Earwax?

Before we go any further, we should briefly outline what earwax actually is. At its simplest, earwax is a natural bodily secretion designed to help clean our ears (allowing you to continue hearing in crisp clarity).

Earwax is primarily comprised of several unsaturated and saturated fats (hence the wax-like texture) and sits within your ear canals. However, your earwax will likely also contain several other components that it will have picked up while cleaning out your affected ears, such as dirt, dust, dead skin cells, sweat, and the like. It’s not exactly the nicest thought.

The Normal Properties of Earwax

Earwax Guide - what your ear wax color means - Deeside Ear Care
Earwax Guide – what your ear wax color means – Deeside Ear Care – Earwax removal aberdeen

Normal earwax will usually show several typical properties, although it’s worth considering that everyone’s earwax is just as unique as they are! As such, one person’s earwax may be different from another’s. However, generally speaking, earwax should usually be amber or golden in colour and have a slight smell, but not overpoweringly so.

The most important thing to remember here is to learn what your earwax normally looks like. This provides you with a baseline to compare against in case your ears should become infected, injured or produce excessive ear wax.

What if my Earwax Doesn’t Seem Normal?

Sometimes, our earwax can show slightly different properties. This usually isn’t cause for concern; however, contacting your GP wouldn’t go amiss if you’re worried. Excessive ear wax production or an earwax buildup can also lead to several issues.

Abnormal Ear Wax Colours

An abnormal colour is one of the most obvious abnormalities you may notice with your earwax if something is awry. There are several different colours that your earwax may become, and each indicates a different thing.

  • Dark brown or black earwax: Why is my earwax dark brown? What does dark ear wax mean? If you’ve noticed that your earwax has turned black, don’t panic. While this can look worrying, it usually just means your earwax has sat in the ear for a little while longer than normal. This can allow the earwax to oxidise, changing its colour to a deep brown or black. Hard impacted ear wax should be removed at our clinic that specialise in ear wax removal in Aberdeen.
  • White earwax:on the other end of the spectrum, if your earwax appears to be white or light grey, this may be due to an excess of dead skin cells in your ears. This is pretty common for people who suffer from eczema. White or pale grey earwax is not usually a sign of concern, but contacting a professional isn’t a bad idea if you’re worried.
  • Green earwax:green earwax can be caused by numerous things, but infection is the most common cause. As such, contacting your GP may help if you notice your earwax is green or you have green ear discharge, as they’ll be able to decide whether you need treatment or antibiotics to overcome the infection.
  • Red earwax:if you notice that your earwax appears to be red or has streaks of red in it, this is most likely due to slight bleeding in the ear. Remember, earwax cleans out the ear, in a process of ear cleaning – which means it’ll also pick up any blood in your outer ear canal. Usually, this isn’t a cause for concern, especially if the problem doesn’t persist. However, we recommend getting professional support from an ear care specialist or audiologist just to be sure.

Abnormal Ear Wax Smells – Why Does Ear Wax Smell?

If you notice that your earwax smells strong, especially if this is significantly stronger than the norm, it could indicate an ear infection or an outer ear infection (medically known as otitis externa). Most commonly, anaerobic bacteria thrive in inner-ear environments, which can contribute a very strong smell to your earwax.

However, early studies may have also found a connection between strong earwax smells and breast cancer; this is not yet proven and further studies are needed, but if you notice a correlation between strong ear wax smelly and other cancer concerns, we recommend reaching out to your doctor immediately.

Abnormal Ear Wax Consistency

As the name suggests, your earwax should usually have a waxy texture. There are two common differences you may experience here.

First, if you notice that you have flaky earwax, this could be a sign of aging or a genetic factor, especially if it’s normal. However, if your earwax changes to become flaky, it’s worth checking that this isn’t a sign of an ear infection with your doctor.

Another common sign of ear infections or abnormality is that your earwax develops a watery consistency. Of course, your earwax may seem watery if it’s gotten wet, such as after a bath or swim. However, if you have wet earwax consistency when you haven’t gotten wet, this could be the result of a middle ear infection, causing pus leakage. Your doctor should be able to advise on this; antibiotics may be required to treat the condition.

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