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Earwax removal

We are continuing to work on improving our earwax removal service in the hope that we can offer nationwide coverage in the future.

If you have any concerns or have noticed a change in your hearing, book a free hearing health check with one of our trained professionals, who will be happy to help.

What is earwax?

Formed in the outer ear canal, the natural wax our ears produce forms a defensive layer in the ear canal. As it is produced it then moves from the outer ear canal to the opening of the ear. 

Earwax has several uses: protecting the ear canal against dust, dirt, bacteria, and foreign bodies. It also helps fight infection and prevents dry or itchy ears by moisturising the skin inside your ear.

What is earwax made of?

The main component of earwax is sebum, a bodily secretion composed mostly of saturated and unsaturated fats.

Because its job is to clean the ear, it also contains dead skin cells, sweat, hair and dirt.

Funnily enough, earwax is not actually wax at all, but is named for its waxy texture. 

What's normal?

Earwax varies in colour, consistency and smell from person to person, and there really is no ‘normal’. So you shouldn’t be too worried about  minor differences. However, any changes could be an indication of an ear infection, injury or wider health problems. 

Earwax colour

As we’ve mentioned, earwax will not look the same for everyone. But generally speaking, it should range from yellow and orange to a light brown colour. If your earwax varies from this spectrum, read on to find out the possible causes. 

Black earwax

Very dark, or even black earwax is a common sign of oxidisation. Put simply, this just means that black earwax has been in the ear too long and has been exposed to the air and natural bacterial fermentation.
Finding black earwax can be a concern, but it’s nothing to worry about. For people using hearing aids, black earwax is a common occurrence.  

Red earwax

Red earwax is usually a sign that there is blood present in the ear. As the ear canal contains many blood vessels, it could be just a scratch. However, it could also be a sign of an ear infection.  
If you have naturally dark earwax it can be hard to tell whether there’s any blood present. In this case, just put some earwax on a tissue and squeeze. You should then see the underlying colour more easily.
If you’re concerned about blood in your earwax, you should get your ears checked by an audiologist. 
As ear trauma or a ruptured eardrum are other possible causes of red earwax, we strongly suggest you seek medical advice if the problem persists, especially if you also feel dizzy or experience hearing loss.  

White or very light earwax 

The cause of very light or even white earwax is most probably down to the fact that it contains skin picked up from a dry and flaky ear canal. People with skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis, often have earwax of this colour.    

Green earwax

If there’s green earwax present in your ear it’s usually a sign of an infection, most probably a middle ear infection, especially if this green discharge is accompanied by an unpleasant smell.
To check if your green earwax is caused by an infection, make an appointment with your GP, who will probably treat it with antibiotic ear drops or a course of oral antibiotics.

Earwax consistency

Perhaps surprisingly, the consistency of the wax in your ear is down to your ancestors and how they genetically adapted to the climate in which they once evolved.

People of Caucasian or African descent are more likely to have wet earwax, while people with Asian ancestry are liable to have dry earwax.

Watery earwax 

Watery earwax is not the same as having wet earwax, which is common after diving or swimming, although it could be a sign of otitis externa, commonly called swimmer’s ear.
Watery earwax is often caused by a middle ear infection. If this is the case, watery earwax isn’t really earwax, it is pus draining from the infection itself. This can be treated easily with antibiotics, so do make an appointment with your GP.   

Another possible cause could be a cholesteatoma, which is a skin growth, a lot like a cyst, in the ear canal. A buildup of dirt and earwax means that debris overflows and comes out the ear. If you suspect your watery earwax is caused by this condition, it’s best to seek medical advice from your doctor.
Flaky earwax

As we’ve mentioned above, dry and flaky earwax may just be down to Asian ancestry. Alternatively, it could simply be a sign of ageing. As we get older, the wax in our ears does tend to become flakier.     
However, flaky earwax can indicate health problems such as eczema or an ear infection. If, along with flaky earwax, you are experiencing any itching or inflammation in your ear, do consult your GP, who will determine whether or not you need treatment. 

Should I remove earwax?

Your ears are self-cleaning, so there shouldn't be any need to remove your earwax. However, if your body produces too much wax, it can cause issues such as muffled hearing. 

It’s important to check that this isn’t being caused by any other conditions, such as an ear infection or something as simple as a common cold before you attempt to remove earwax.

How often should I remove earwax?

Everyone develops different amounts of wax, and at different speeds. While some people need regular appointments to manage their earwax, others never experience any issues and don’t require any medical assistance. 

If you’re worried about the amount of earwax your body is producing, it’s a good idea to contact your GP or local hearing health professional as they will be able to assess your ears. They will then recommend the best treatment for you.

How to remove earwax at home

There are several ways to clean your ears and remove your earwax safely at home. Washing regularly should be enough to keep your ears clean, you can also use a damp washcloth to gently clean the outside of your ears. You can also use an ear irrigation kit along with wax softeners and preventers to combat buildup and moisturise the ear canal.

However, removing your earwax is only advised if your symptoms aren’t urgent and you haven’t noticed any other issues such as pain or a change in your hearing. 

If you are considering removing earwax at home, avoid inserting any objects into your ear canal, as this can push the wax in further and may cause permanent damage. We also wouldn’t recommend the use of ear candles as they can cause injuries, burns, or perforation of the eardrum.

What happens if earwax is not removed?

If your ears are producing normal amounts of earwax, nothing will likely happen if it isn’t removed. You shouldn't need to remove earwax at all, as it acts as a natural barrier for your ear canal, trapping dust, dirt, and bacteria and preventing any injuries to the delicate area.

However, if you do have an excess or buildup of earwax, and it’s not removed, it can cause several symptoms such as irritation and hearing loss, and the wax can become impacted.  

Impacted earwax is common, especially in older adults, as wax becomes harder as we age, it can be caused by several issues - from certain skin diseases such as eczema to wearing hearing aids. Impacted earwax can cause a range of symptoms, either in one or both of your ears, including:
  • Dizziness
  • Tinnitus
  • Earache
  • Trouble hearing
  • Itching

If you’re concerned about your earwax and are looking for some advice on how to remove it, book an appointment with our specialists today or give us a call at 0345 270 1600 to chat with our team.