Like anything with our bodies, earwax production can vary from person to person. Here’s what to know and when to see a doctor.
https://www.huffpost.com/-By Jillian Wilson
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Experts explain the factors that may increase your earwax levels.
The color, consistency and amount of earwax you have varies from person to person. Normal earwax can be dark brown, light brown, orange, yellow or off-white, according to Dr. Rosemary Ojo, an otolaryngologist at Englewood Health in New Jersey. The texture of your earwax and the amount of earwax you produce can vary, too.
You should go to a doctor to find out if you really have more earwax than most people, Ojo noted. But if you think you have more earwax than those around you, there are some reasons behind that. Below, experts share why:
Some people simply have more earwax than others.
Like anything with your body, your family history can play a role.
“Some people genetically just make more earwax,” said Dr. Maura Cosetti, the director of the Ear Institute at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai.
So the reason you have more earwax than your friends can be a simple explanation: Every person functions differently depending on their genes.
Older people also tend to have more earwax.
You may notice an increased amount of earwax as you age, particularly once you hit your older years, according to Cosetti.
“The outer part of the ear canal, where the earwax is made, gets softer with age. Frankly, it starts to sag,” she said.
When the ear canal sags, it becomes more narrow, which causes earwax to get trapped in the ear canal. So it’s not exactly that older people make more earwax ― they just may notice an increased amount because of a more narrow ear canal, Cosetti explained.
People with certain ear problems may have more earwax.
If you suffer from chronic ear infections, you may notice that you have more earwax than those around you, according to Ojo. This is because people produce more earwax after certain kinds of ear infections (like swimmer’s ear) to restore ear balance, she said.
On the flip side, some people just have a lot of earwax and are prone to blockage, which can lead to frequent ear infections.
People with certain ear characteristics can have more earwax.
Ojo said that those with “a lot of hair in the canal” or smaller ear canals can also be subject to a larger amount of earwax.
Cosetti added that those with narrower ear canals “may not make more [earwax] but there is just an easier chance that it would block up your ear canal,” which, in turn, would make it seem like you have more earwax than others.
Some skin conditions can cause people to make more earwax, too.
You probably associate skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis with hands, elbows and knees, but these skin conditions can occur in the ear canal, too ― and it’s actually pretty common, Cosetti said.
Because of these skin conditions, “you can end up having more earwax or earwax that doesn’t come out in the right way,” she noted.
Your earbuds play a role.
At this point, it’s hard to take a walk down the street without seeing people with earbuds in their ears (you may even have yours in right now). You likely wear your headphones while you work out, listen to podcasts or audiobooks, during video calls, and even as you clean the house. These devices are doing more than providing you with some background music during your day ― they could result in a larger amount of earwax in your ears.
“We’re not exactly sure if in all people wearing earbuds causes [more] earwax, but if you’re someone who’s prone to making more earwax it’s possible that ongoing use of earbuds could lead to that wax getting stuck,” Cosetti said.
Historically, people with hearing aids often experience earwax blockages — now the same may be happening with earbuds, Cosetti suggested.
If you notice any issues, seek advice from your physician.
“People with too much wax have a risk of blockage,” Ojo said, adding that blocked ear canals can result in muffled hearing and can make you prone to ear infections. If you have an earwax blockage, Ojo noted that you may feel a sense of itchiness or fullness in the ear. You may also experience ringing in your ear or dizziness.
If you notice any of these things, call your doctor. Your physician can take a look at what’s going on and offer treatment options to make sure your ear canal is healthy and the wax doesn’t cause further issues.