What your earwax colour and texture says about your health

July 10, 2024
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Our ears can tell us a lot about our health – specifically the wax. It can be a tell tale sign when something could be or already has gone wrong.

You cannot prevent earwax from building up in your ear canals – it’s there to protect your ears from dirt, germs and infections. Occassionally, our ears may go into overdrive and produce a bit too much wax which might need to be cleared to avoid any hearing issues.

Otherwise, you can usually leave your ears to get on with the job themselves. According to Healthline, our ears our self-cleaning and naturally chuck out old earwax, along with dead skin cells.

Typically, most people’s ear wax is yellow or brown in colour. It’s usually wet and sticky in consistency – and this is healthy.

However, ear wax can change its colour and texture depending on certain things going on inside your ears. Below, we’ve got a guide to what the differences might mean and if you need to act on it.

Soft and yellow wax is freshly made and healthy earwax. Darker shades of yellow (with a more tar-like consistency) is still healthy but shows signs it has been there for a while.

Flaky and pale wax is a sign of that self-cleaning at work. This is often found outside the canal and has been pushed out by the ear. People with skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis, often have earwax of this colour.

Black wax might send alarm bells ringing at first sight but it’s probably more common than you think. This change can signal an earwax buildup that hasn’t been cleared naturally

Put simply, the blackening wax has been oxidised after sitting in the ear too long and has been exposed to the air and natural bacterial fermentation. For people using hearing aids, black earwax is a common occurrence.

Redness in the wax could be a sign of blood in the ear. As the ear canal contains many blood vessels, it could be just a scratch but it could also be a sign of an ear infection.

If you have naturally dark earwax it can be hard to tell whether there’s any blood present. In this case, just put some earwax on a tissue and squeeze. You should then see the underlying colour more easily.
 
If you’re concerned about blood in your earwax, you should get your ears checked by an audiologist. Probably more concerning than black and red is finding green earwax.

This is usually a sign of an infection, most probably a middle ear infection, especially if this green discharge is accompanied by an unpleasant smell.

To check if your green earwax is caused by an infection, make an appointment with your GP, who will probably treat it with antibiotic ear drops or a course of oral antibiotics.

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