What Is Earwax Supposed To Smell Like
The human ear has many functions that we don’t think about until something goes wrong with them. For example, the ear’s middle ear contains air pressure sensors that help us hear sounds better. The outer ear detects changes in sound waves to tell the brain what direction they’re coming from. And the inner ear sends information to the brain about how fast the head is moving.
But our ears are also home to bacteria as well as ear wax. When these substances build up, they can cause ear infections and inflammation. In addition, earwax serves two useful purposes: It protects against infection and makes sure that sound waves pass through easily.
So when does earwax become problematic? Your earwax might smell if you have an ear infection, for instance. Or it could smell bad because you’ve got too much earwax buildup. Other complications include allergies, foreign bodies lodged in the ear canal (such as cerumen), and even certain medications.
If your earwax smells, it may be caused by a medical condition or other complication. But you should consult a doctor if your earwax stinks more than usual. A little bit of extra earwax isn’t usually harmful, but if it becomes excessive, it can lead to ear problems such as plugged ears.
We’ll look at some common ways that earwax builds up next.
Your earwax will build up over time, just like you do with dust or dirt on a windowpane. You can actually speed up this process by using products containing alcohols, which dry out your skin and make it easier for dirt particles to stick. Products such as cotton swabs, Q-tips and tissues all contain alcohol, so use them sparingly.
You should keep the inside of the ear clean as well. This means washing your hands before touching your ears, avoiding blowing into your ears without cleaning first, and not scratching your ears while trying to get rid of earwax.
And although earwax helps protect your ear canal, it can sometimes irritate the ear drum if it gets clogged. This causes pain, especially when you blow hard into your ears. As a result, you should avoid activities that involve loud noises, such as swimming.
It’s best to wear comfortable headphones when you want to listen to music or watch TV shows or movies. Wearing uncomfortable headphones can force you to scratch your ears more often, further irritating your earwax buildup.
Finally, try cutting back on smoking and drinking caffeinated beverages. These habits can damage your liver, lungs and kidneys, leading to ear problems. Smoking cigarettes affects your earwax negatively because nicotine constricts blood vessels and hinders oxygen flow. Drinking alcoholic beverages dehydrates your body, making your ears less sensitive to noise.
When you stop smoking, drink moderately, and take care of your ears, you won’t need to worry about getting sick from earwax buildup.
Next, let’s talk about how you can improve your earwax odor.
How to Improve Your Earwax Odor
People who suffer from chronic earwax buildup tend to develop unpleasant odors of their earwax. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to prevent this.
First, don’t smoke. Second, eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin B6, including bananas, beef, whole grains, green leafy vegetables and eggs. Vitamin B6 strengthens your immune system and fights free radicals, both of which support good health. Third, eat foods high in zinc, including seafood, meat, poultry and beans. Zinc keeps your nose hairs moist and reduces your chances of developing a runny nose. Finally, drink lots of water. Water flushes away toxins, including waste materials generated by earwax.
If your earwax still smells bad despite taking proper care of your ears, see your doctor. He or she can prescribe medication to remove excess earwax. Some doctors recommend using benzoyl peroxide gels, which kill bacteria in your ear and reduce the amount of earwax that accumulates.
While earwax buildup doesn’t affect everyone, it’s definitely worth being aware of its potential effects. Next, find out why earwax is needed for good hearing.
Good Hearing With Healthy Ears
Our ears act as filters that allow only specific frequencies of sound waves to reach the ear drum. Sound waves above 1 kHz simply bounce off the eardrum without reaching your ear. Sounds below 500 Hz penetrate the bones surrounding the ear drum and vibrate the fluid within the ear. This fluid then moves toward the external opening of the ear.
This filtering mechanism allows us to hear low frequency sounds clearly without any distortion. However, when you grow older, you lose sensitivity in your middle ear bone, called the ossicles. At the same time, your earwax produces dead cells known as keratin. These cells plug the tiny holes where the eardrum attaches to the middle ear bone. Over time, the keratin can scar the eardrum and hinder sound transmission.
To compensate for this loss of sensitivity, your ear uses three different mechanisms: resonance, feedback and amplification. Resonance refers to the way your ear responds to lower frequency sound waves. Feedback occurs when higher frequency sound waves stimulate the cochlea and create another wave that travels down the auditory nerve. Amplification describes the boost your ear receives when sound waves hit the tympanic membrane directly.
As a person ages, his or her ears experience a gradual decline in their ability to filter sound waves efficiently. While you probably aren’t going deaf, a few decades of age-related hearing loss can significantly impact your quality of life.
Fortunately, you can slow this deterioration by doing regular ear checks. By seeing your doctor regularly, you can catch any age-related hearing problems early, allowing him or her to prescribe corrective measures.
For more information on earwax and related topics, visit the links on the following page.
Earlobes are made up of fatty tissue that fills the spaces around the ear drum and provides insulation.
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