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All The Amazing Things Your Ear Wax Can Tell You About Your Health

Updated October 2, 2020 49.8k views15 items

Ear wax is one of those bodily substances that gets a bad rap. We shove Q-tips in our ear canals trying to get the sticky stuff out, when really, ear wax is there to help us. Your health affects your ear wax, meaning ear wax can tell you some pretty amazing things about your health - that is, if you're willing to pay attention and not get grossed out.

Shakespeare may have said that "he has not so much brain as ear wax," but don't let that sway your opinion (though that is a good insult to have in your back pocket). Too much ear wax is definitely a bad thing, but the color and consistency of your ear wax can tell you valuable information about your health. What is normal and what's a reason to run to the ear doctor? And should you try to remedy your ear problems at home?

If it seems wild that ear wax harbors information about the rest of your body, just remember that it's no crazier than the fact that your tongue can tell you about your health - and your number twos can, too .

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  • Your Ear Wax's Smell Can Tell You About Your Health

    The same gene that affects your ear wax's color and consistency also affects what your underarms smell like. Doctors know the scent of your underarms can offer some valuable information about your health, so logic would follow that your ear wax can do the same. 

    As researchers figure out just what, exactly, ear wax can tell us, we already know it can alert us to two pretty serious conditions. One is called maple syrup urine disease (yes, because it makes your urine smell like maple syrup). It's a serious metabolic problem, and it can be detected in your ear wax before it can be detected in your urine. The other is called black urine disease, which affect how your body breaks down amino acids. And yes, it does turn your urine black. 

  • The Color Of Your Ear Wax Has A Meaning

    Your ear wax can take plenty of colors and consistencies, all with different meanings. Children, who on average produce more ear wax, usually have soft and yellow ear wax. Wet, sticky, and yellow ear wax belongs to certain ethnic groups. If your ear wax is darker and sticky, that's an indicator of how you sweat - and yes, it probably means you sweat a lot. The inverse follows, too; white, dry, and flaky ear wax means you sweat less. Thick, dark wax usually isn't a good thing. When you're scared or stressed out, your body loves to produce more ear wax (just like it likes to sweat more). If you've got a lot of thick, darker wax from fear or stress, it could lead to a blockage. The same follows for dark brown or black wax.

  • Ear Wax Protects Your Ears

    The most valuable thing about ear wax is that it waterproofs your ear, because water and your ear canal aren't a good mix. Ear wax is also acidic, meaning it protects against infections. If you remove the wax from your ear, you're opening yourself up to infection, swimmer's ear, and a host of other problems - who knows what can get in there?

  • Messing With Your Ears Can Give You Vertigo

    As if the possibility of rupturing your ear drum isn't enough, you can actually give yourself vertigo if you dig around your ear with a Q-tip or other object. Little crystals live in your ear called otoliths. If you somehow move those crystals around by pressing on the tiny bones in your ear, that could give you vertigo. An ear doctor's office can help put the crystals back in place, but typically the problem will go away on its own. 

    If you find yourself feeling dizzy for what seems like no reason, it may be worth heading to the ear doctor - your crystals may be out of place.