Earwax is a perfectly normal substance produced by your ears. While most of us are familiar with the yellow substance, there are occasions when your earwax may chance color or texture. Understanding the causes of these changes can help you identify a problem and seek help quickly.

What Is Earwax?

Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a waxy substance created by the sebaceous glands in the ear canal. It plays an essential role in ear health by cleaning, protecting and lubricating the ear canal.

When things are working well, the ear is able to self-regulate. Earwax is produced, does its job and then though the motion or talking and chewing, it travels up and out of the ear, removing with it dried skin cells and other debris.

Earwax Colors & Textures

Earwax can range in color from off-white to black. For most, the earwax you see is an amber orange to light brown and is a wet and sticky consistency. The color of earwax is usually related to its age; the lighter in color the newer the earwax. This is also true with the texture; the dryer the earwax, the older it is.

Below is a color guide of earwax, created by Medical News Today:
graph with different earwax colors

When to Seek Medical Help

If you are experiencing discharge from the ear that is not earwax, you should consult with your ear, nose and throat doctor. This is a common sign of an ear infection. Green earwax or earwax with a foul smell is also an indication of an infection.

If there is blood in your earwax, this could be a sign of an injury to the ear or a ruptured eardrum.

Gray or black earwax usually means there is a buildup of dust in the ear or impacted earwax.

If you are experiencing hearing loss, this could be a sign of impacted earwax. Your doctor can safely remove the blockade and provide you with tips on how to prevent this in the future.

It is important to note that while you may have the urge to clean your ear to prevent a buildup of earwax, this increases the risk of pushing your earwax deeper into the ear canal and causing a blockage. The best way to clean your ears is to gently wash with mild soup and water. This will help rinse out the ear canal and remove any earwax that is ready to fall out.

To learn more about keeping your ear clean and healthy, contact the experts at Willamette Ear, Nose, Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery.

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