Ear wax, or cerumen, is a natural substance that the ears produce to help protect the ear canal and eardrum.
Ear wax plays essential roles in ear health. It helps remove debris from the ear canal, prevents foreign bodies and particles from penetrating deep into the ear, and it even helps protect against germs.
The ears are also relatively self-regulating. Thanks to the motion of talking and chewing, as well as the shape of the ear itself, ear wax naturally moves up and out of the ear.
Old ear wax eventually moves out of the ear canal and falls out naturally, taking any debris and dead skin cells along with it.
In this article, learn what different colours and textures of ear wax indicate, as well as how to safely clean out the ear.
Ear wax colours
Ear wax can be a variety of colours, including:
- off white
- bright orange
- dark orange
Ear wax is most often amber orange to light brown, wet, and sticky. For some people, it is drier and lighter in colour, closer to off white or yellow.
In general, the colour has a bit to do with the age of the ear wax. Newer ear wax tends to be lighter in colour, and it darkens as it ages and picks up more debris.
The colour, texture, and amount of ear wax vary naturally from person to person. For most people who produce a regular amount of ear wax, the ears can easily remove the wax on their own. This happens at varying speeds, often leading to different textures of ear wax.
Blockages in the ear can change the colour and texture of the wax. If the person cannot remove the wax, the ear canal may become fully blocked, which could impair hearing and increase the risk of infection.
Infections and injuries can cause discharge from the ear that may be:
- foul smelling
Ear wax textures
The texture of ear wax changes as the wax ages. Also, genetics and a person’s age may play roles.
An older study, from 2006, has linked people of East Asian descent to earwax that is typically dry and flaky.
Also, children tend to have softer ear wax that is lighter in colour, while adults tend to have darker, harder ear wax.
Safely cleaning the ears
Simply put, your ear canal is delicate as is your eardrum, if you make the mistake of putting anything in your ear, you run the risk of damaging either or both. Many people every year burst or perforate their eardrum by sticking all sort of implements in there, usually cotton buds. They are called cotton buds, not earbuds; they are designed for babies noses, not ears. Please don’t put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear.
You should not try to use cotton buds to remove ear wax from your ear canal, all it will do is push it towards the eardrum. It can cause you, even more, problems and make it more difficult to remove. Leave ear wax removal to Hearing Logic we know what we are doing.
Healthy ear wax colour and texture can greatly vary. The ears are self-cleaning, and the best way to take care of them is often to leave them alone.