Your Guide to Black Ear Wax (and What it Means)
Earwax might not be the most glamorous topic to read about, but it’s something that we’re all familiar with. This naturally-produced substance is intended to help keep your ears clean and working properly. However, sometimes, the nature of your earwax can change, which might cause you to worry. If you’ve noticed black, or heavily discolored earwax recently, don’t panic. Most of the time, the color is caused by a build-up that isn’t dangerous to you or your hearing.
Typically, earwax helps to protect the ear canal from things that might get into it, such as dirt, bacteria, and even water when you’re swimming. Various glands within the outer portion of your ear work together to produce earwax, and the substance may also include some old skin cells from your ear canal, which shed naturally over time.
Usually, earwax will be a sticky yellow substance, but it can sometimes turn to dark colors of black or brown. If you’re concerned about the color of your earwax, the following article could help to put your mind at rest.
What Caused Black Earwax?
When earwax builds up in the ear canal over long periods, the color begins to darken gradually. The longer your earwax sits stagnant, the darker the coloring becomes. According to some research into the accumulation of earwax, older adults and males are more likely to experience build-ups of earwax over time.
The older you get, the more of a chance you’ll have to develop dark earwax too. This is because older people usually have dryer ears that don’t clear earwax out as quickly. This means that the buildup can be more significant. Black earwax can affect anyone, regardless of your background or where you come from. Usually, discolored earwax is a result of some of the following things:
- Excessive build-up of earwax: Most people find that their earwax naturally clears out over time, usually when they’re bathing or showering. However, if your ears aren’t cleaned regularly enough, or your glands produce more than they should, the substance can build up and grow darker over time.
- Insertion of other objects: If you regularly use hearing aids, earplugs, earbuds and other products that you place into your ear canal, then ear wax won’t be able to drain as easily, this increases your chances of developing discolored wax.
- Earwax compression: Sometimes, people who attempt to clean their ears with cotton buds will push the earwax further back into their ears. This compresses the wax against the eardrum, where it continues to become more discolored. As well as darker earwax, compressed wax can also cause other problems, such as hearing loss, earaches, and even dizziness.
How to Deal with Dark Earwax at Home
Usually, black earwax shouldn’t be a cause for concern. However, if you feel as though it’s becoming a problem, there are plenty of ways that you can tackle the issue using safe home remedies. Keep in mind that you should only attempt home remedies for removing earwax if you haven’t got any other symptoms such as dizziness or earache. You’ll need to see a doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms, as this could be a sign of a bigger problem.
If you feel safe trying options at home, you could try ear irrigation. This is the process of using warm water, sometimes with essential oils, to clean out the ear. To use irrigation:
- Fill a small rubber bulb or syringe with warm water and a few drops of essential oil
- Tilt the head so that your problematic ear is facing up, and make sure that you angle yourself over the sink.
- Insert the syringe tip over the entrance to your ear canal and gently squirt the water inside.
- Repeat the irrigation process with the other ear.
You might also want to angle your ear over the sink when you’re using irrigation so that the water can drain naturally.
Another way to treat the issue of discolored ear wax is to use specialist ear drops. These can be obtained over the counter, and usually come with natural oils, or hydrogen peroxide included. You can simply drop a small amount of the solution into your ear, which will be absorbed by the hard wax. This should soften the ear wax and make it easier to clear out your ear canal. After a while, you can take a shower and try to clear the wax from your ear naturally.
Earwax removal drops are very easy to find and should be available from any pharmacy.
The Medical Treatments Available for Discolored Earwax
If the treatments that you try at home aren’t successful, or you feel discomfort as well as noticing discolored earwax, then you’ll need to speak to your doctor about the treatments that are available to you. A GP will be able to check for any underlying conditions that may be causing your ear problems.
You can also try to clean your ears at home using one of the ear cleaning techniques and tools described in our guides. For example you can try:
- Ear irrigator tools using special substances or tools
- Removing your excess earwax using the Wax RX set
- Removing the earwax using Elephant Ear Washer set
- Removing ear wax using the ear endoscope ear pick set
How to Prevent Discolored Earwax
There are plenty of things that you can do to reduce your risk of discolored and built-up earwax. Usually, just leaving your ears alone to operate as normal will help to stop wax from building up. Regular jaw movement and showering will clean the ears naturally. You should also avoid washing your ears yourself using cotton buds, as this can make the situation worse.
Anyone who has a history of wax buildup in their ears might want to avoid using earbuds and other devices that need to be inserted into their ears regularly. If you notice that you experience problems a lot, then you can speak to your doctor. A GP might provide you with a medication that will soften your ear wax and reduce pain or discomfort.
When To Seek Help with Black Earwax
As mentioned above, black earwax and discoloration in earwax is rarely a cause for concern. However, if you’re experiencing this issue for the first time, it may be worth speaking to your doctor and getting referred to a professional. It’s also essential to get extra help from a professional if you notice symptoms besides the discolored wax, such as:
- Pain in your ear
- Feeling as though your ear is blocked
- Itchiness around or in the ear
- Ringing in the ears
- Ear discharge
- Problems with hearing.
Generally, it’s best to speak to your doctor before you try any at-home remedies too.
Although most remedies available will be safe to use, there’s always a chance that you could react negatively to some at-home solutions.