Eight Super Gross But Surprisingly Helpful Facts About Earwax
Earwax removal expert and founder of Earworx, registered nurse Lisa Hellwege was only too happy to gross up out, er... educate us on the ins and outs of our ears.
A gentle warning that there are some rather icky images ahead.
Ready? Ear we go.
Earwax Is Either Wet Or Dry
“There are two types of people -- those who produce wet earwax and those who produce dry earwax," Hellwege told 10 daily.
Wet earwax is more common than dry and can significantly reduce the itching people with dry earwax are often plagued by. by that can plague people who have dry earwax -- or no wax at all.
Whether you're wet or dry in the earwax department also has something to do with your B.O.. We're not kidding -- scientists have proven those with dry earwax are less whiffy under the arms.
It changes colour
Ever noticed the hue of the gunk coming out of your ears? It can tell us a lot about our ear health, according to Hellwege. Fresh earwax is golden yellow and has a soft texture -- this is ideal.
Older earwax is darker and firmer but can become flaky and pale as it makes its way to the outside world. All are normal colours and textures, and show your listening hole is healthy and functioning properly.
Something might be wrong when earwax is either blood-tinged -- it might mean there's a scratch in the ear canal or an ear injury -- or if it's black, which can be a sign of buildup.
Non-normal wax colours might mean there's a foreign object stuck in there somewhere, while runny, cloudy and smelly earwax is actually less likely to be earwax -- it's probably "debris" related to an ear infection. Hit up the doc if you're concerned.
It reflects your ethnicity
Along with saying something about your pits, your ear wax can indicate where you're from.
According to Hellwege, dry earwax is present in 80-95 percent of people of East Asian descent, compared with 30-50 percent of those of Southern Asia, Central Asian, Pacific Islands and Native North Americans descent.
Almost everyone of European or African descent have wet earwax.
It knows when you're stressed
Stress and fear can send wax production into overdrive, Hellwege told 10 daily. The aprocine glands, which are responsible for earwax, are also the glands churning out sweat. When one gets going, so does the other.
An overabundance of wax is also common in people with hairy ear canals, people who wear hearing aids, surfers, divers and those who have a hereditary disposition to wax buildup. Yup -- you can thank your mum and dad for your icky ears, too.
Eardrop solutions or safe, effective and quick microsuction techniques -- performed by a professional -- can sort out an ear that's chock-full of wax.
It's an insect repellent
Oh yes -- earwax is also an insect repellent, explained Hellwege. The wax's bitter taste and smell deter critters from crawling in, so those horror stories about bugs in ears are mostly just that. It might be an idea to keep your earwax -- and give your room a clean instead.
If an insect does make it past the wax and into your ear, pour olive oil in to drown the little sucker, and visit an Earworx clinic or your GP to have it removed.
It can make you deaf
Well, allow us to clarify -- a buildup of earwax can affect your hearing temporarily, but only if at least 80 percent of the ear canal is occluded or blocked. It would take quite a lot of wax.
"As long as the eardrum is still visible, hearing is less likely to be impacted, however, a fully occluded ear canal will lead to significant hearing loss," Hellwege explained.
Having said that, deafness due to wax doesn't happen often. Major wax buildup occurs in just four to six percent of the population in the UK. Children, people with developmental delays and older people are more likely to have a blockage.
Symptoms of a wax overload include a feeling of fullness, blockage, itching, hearing loss, pain, discharge, ringing and a cough.
It can look after itself
You might feel the need to get stuck into mining out those ears right about now -- but do yourself a favour and resist that urge.
For 95 percent of us, our ears are self-cleaning. Handy, no?
The whole ear canal and drum is lined with a skin layer that works its way out of the ear -- the whole process happens at about the same rate your fingernails grow.
This, combined with the movement of the soft outer part of the ear, helps push wax out into the world. So there's no need to get stuck in with your finger -- or worse, a cotton bud.
Hellwege is not a fan.
"Definitely stay away!" she said. "While cotton buds can remove some wax, they often also push wax further down the canal."
Your daily cotton bud habit can cause buildup and often worsen symptoms -- as well as strip the canal of wax altogether.
"It is important to have some earwax as it there to protect and lubricate the ear canals, but when it is constantly wiped away the ears can become dry and itchy and more vulnerable to infection," she said.
Step away from the cotton buds, people.
It can be chunky, and that's okay!
If you find little chunks of wax in your outer ear, on your pillow or your headphones, don't be embarrassed. In fact, it's a good thing -- it's a sign the self-cleaning mechanism is working properly. Show your chunks with pride.
If it's making your ears itchy, on the other hand, that's not okay.
Itchy ears are commonly caused by too much or too little earwax, skin conditions -- think eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis-- hayfever, allergies, or infection. As we've repeated a few times, don't go poking around yourself. Get it checked out by your local health professional.
Feature image: Getty.