Ear Wax Color Chart: What Can Ear Wax Reveal About Your Health?

ear checking

Cleaning your ears is one of the essential personal hygiene tasks, together with brushing your teeth, showering, and washing your hair. However, many people need to be more aware of the natural protective function of earwax and its role in indicating health changes.

Earwax protects and moisturizes the ear canal's skin, preventing dry, itchy ears. It also contains special chemicals that fight off infections that could damage the skin inside the ear.

Does Ear Wax Color Mean Anything?

There are different types of colors your ear wax can be. By determining the color of your earwax, you can know what it means.

1. Grey Earwax: If your earwax is grey, and you are experiencing no symptoms, then there is nothing to worry about. Chances are it is just dust, and those who live in the city will experience this because of the pollution in the air.

2. Traces of Blood In the Earwax: If you notice traces of blood in your ear wax, it can indicate that the eardrum is perforated. In this case, your ears are susceptible to infections, and your hearing can be significantly affected.

3. Brown Earwax: If your earwax is of a brown discharge, it can indicate that your body has gone through a very stressful time. The best thing to do if you notice this is to take a few days to relax and then do another swab and see if the color has changed.

4. Black Earwax: If you notice this once, then there is nothing to worry about. However, if your ears become itchy and the itching becomes constant, then you should go see a doctor because the black earwax signifies a fungal infection.

5. White Earwax: White earwax signifies that there is a lack of vitamins in your body, specifically copper and iron. It is recommended that you add beans and oatmeal to your diet. Both of them contain high levels of copper and iron.

6. Smelly Earwax: If you notice that your earwax has a very potent and unpleasant smell, it could mean that you have an ear infection. Aside from the smell, you may also hear a noise or feel your ears pop occasionally. If this occurs, see a doctor immediately.

7. Liquid Earwax: Normally, earwax is mushy or hard, but if you notice that it has become a liquid form, it may indicate that inflammation is beginning to form in your ear.

8. Dry Earwax: Dry earwax means that your body is lacking lean fats. Another reason could be a skin infection or other skin diseases that are causing your skin to dry up.

ear wax

Does Ear Wax Color Mean Anything?

The color of your ear wax can indicate many processes in your body, from your overall health to your DNA ancestry. Although your ears are a self-cleaning organ, regular ear cleaning prevents potential blockages from earwax buildup and, therefore, is an important part of personal hygiene maintenance. Abnormal ear discharge is a sign to consult your doctor. 

The color, texture, and amount of ear wax are unique for each person. If your ears produce a regular amount of ear wax, they can get rid of it on their own. 

Is Dark Ear Wax Good?

Ear wax commonly comes in a wet, yellow-brown, or dry white-gray form. The form and color of your ear wax can vary depending on your ethnicity or health state. When you notice a change in your ear wax color, that probably indicates a health change. Therefore, dark ear wax can be a potential sign of an issue you must address. 

Your ear wax traps dust and dirt. Therefore, a darker shade of ear wax usually signals that you spend a lot of time in a dirty environment. The darker the brownish color your earwax has, the more dirt it has trapped over a longer period of time. If you notice your earwax becomes black, this indicates an even more intense buildup. 

Your ear wax going darker than usual can signal that your ear’s natural function to remove it is disrupted. Darker ear wax is commonly related to a recent blockage due to a foreign object you insert in your ear, such as a hearing aid or a dirty headphone jack. If your ear wax color change is accompanied by pain, discomfort, or hearing loss, you should consult a specialist as soon as possible for expert advice.

Dark ear wax is sometimes a natural symptom of aging, particularly in men. As you grow older, your ear produces less wax, but your ear wax may become thicker. This means you will become prone to quicker ear wax build-up. 

If the dark ear wax is accompanied by blood, this is likely a sign of an ear injury or scratch.



Why Is My Ear Wax So Wet?

Some people are genetically predisposed to wet, honey-colored ear wax or cerumen. At some point, body odor was a useful evolutionary trait, so the same genetic code leads to sticky ear wax and smelly armpits. 

Wet ear wax is harder to clean, which means it can build up and cause ear blockage more quickly. This makes ear blockages the most common ear issue around the world. For example, US doctors perform around 8 million ear wax removal procedures every year.

Watery ear wax is a separate issue from wet ear wax, and it has different causes. This phenomenon can occur as a result of mixing the cerumen with water during swimming or diving.

Other more serious causes of watery ear wax include:

  • Middle ear infections
  • Damaged ear canal
  • Ruptured eardrum 
  • Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa)
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