What Your Earwax Says About Your Health

Earwax is an unglamorous part of our bodies that many try to avoid thinking about. Although it isn't the most enjoyable topic of discussion, this naturally occurring substance can be an important indicator of your ear health and overall health.

Earwax, or cerumen, serves as a protector of your ear canal and eardrum. Earwax removes debris from your ear canal as well as prevents germs and foreign particles from getting deep into your ear (via Medical News Today). Plus, your ears are "self-regulating," per Medical News Today, as everyday activities like chewing and speaking cause earwax to move out of the ear.

This important stuff can be a variety of colors that change due to infections, injury, or even genetics (via Livestrong). Nevertheless, white, yellow, or orange is considered normal. It's also typically waxy. If your earwax tends to be more of a yellow-to-orange milky texture, you may have an infection. This would likely be coupled with ear discomfort and redness.

Cleaning your ears? Put down the Q-Tip

If your earwax is darker than normal, don't panic — it may just be older earwax that has picked up more debris, according to Medical News Today. But if your earwax is a red or black color, it could mean there is bleeding in the ear canal or an older blood clot. Any scrapes or injuries to the ear canal typically remedy themselves, but it is best to see a doctor if you have continual discomfort or wax issues.

It's not just the color of your earwax that can help you gauge your health, however. Experts told Livestrong that if the amount of earwax increases or decreases, it could show a change in your overall health or in your ear canals. You may also have drier earwax due to skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, or just genetics.

All this talk about earwax may have you wanting to do a deep cleaning — but put down the Q-Tips. Using any foreign object to clean your ears like a cotton swab or ear candle can cause more injuries like blockages and discomfort. Safe cleaning can be done by gently washing your outer ears with soap and water and rinse into the ear canal to clear away any wax (via Medical News Today). If you have too much earwax, you can use earwax thinning drops at home, or consult with your medical team about treatment options.