Smelly Ear Wax, Meaning, Causes Itchy Smelly Ear Wax in Children, Adults No Pain How to Clean

Smelly ear wax can be embarrassing especially if you are an adult. Do you know what causes the ear to have a stinky wax in your child? Does it means you have an infection whenever you have a sticky smelling odor from one of your ears? In this article, we have a comprehensive discussion on how to treat or clean ear wax that smell.

The ear produces ear wax, which for many people is just another secretion that has its significance if properly managed. This involves cleaning and taking good health care of the ear in general. If your ear produces excessive ear wax such that you end up having buildup, you may risk clogging the ear and attracting infections.

Smelly ear wax discharge
Smelly ear wax discharge

A normal ear wax is produced by the sebaceous and ceruminous glands that secretes sebum and cerumen respectively. These secretions often mixes with other squamous that covers the lining of the outer ear surface of the ear drum forming a sticky solid substance known as earwax. The ear wax has the following functions:

  • It traps dust and other dirt that may enter your ear canal
  • Lubricates the ear canal
  • Keeps the ear canal free from insects and other small organisms that may enter your ear canal
  • It also inhibits growth of bacteria and fungi in your ear

What does smelly ear wax mean?

What does stinky ear wax mean? According to researchers, ear wax from different races have specific odor, this can send important information about a person’s health. So depending on which race you originate from, the smell of your ear wax will send a message on the general state of health of your body.

According to studies at Modell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, ear wax can be used to get health information of a person. From the research, a gene found out to be responsible for underarm odor was also associated to the color and the texture of the ear wax.

According to LiveScience, people of East Asian descent have a variant of the gene and tend to have a white ear wax that has less foul. The African and European descent have a variant of the gene which causes the ear wax to be wet, yellow- brownish in color and more likely cause odor.

A journal published by FASEB in 2009, found out that there was a close link to the variant of the gene that caused smelly ear wax and armpits to an increased risk of breast cancer. This clearly provides lifesaving clues to detect early onset and treatment of breast cancer.

Wax in the ear is created from a mixture of secretion including sweat and fat. According to researchers, this could be a way of spotting early onsets of diseases. Researchers believe that signs of maple syrup urine disease and alkaptonuria (black urine disease) can be spotted in the ear wax before blood and urine tests.

Smelly ear wax symptoms

How do you tell you have a foul ear wax smell? Stinky ear wax can occur as a result of an infection coupled with buildup of excessive wax. According to MyoClinic, you are likely to get worse pain. This is evident when you tug gently on part of your external ear, a clear indication of an infection.

In severe cases, you are likely to experience pain that slowly increase in severity and stops suddenly. If not managed, the infections might penetrate deep into the ear drum causing it to rupture, a case commonly noticed in toddlers.

Other symptoms that are associated with a stinky ear wax include pus discharge with blood spots, noise or what sounds like ringing (tinnitus) in the ear and having a difficult in hearing. If you notice such symptom in your ear other than the foul smell, consult your doctor for treatment.

Smelly ear wax causes

What causes your ears wax to have a foul smell? Smelly ear wax can be caused by a number of reasons including: infections, tumors, and poor body hygiene among others. Below is a detailed discussion on the causes of a bad odor from the ear wax.

1. Smelly ear wax infection

Do you have an infection in your ear?  An infection such as otitis externa could be what is ailing your ear causing the bad smell of the wax in your ear. Otitis externa is caused by bacterial or fungi infection in the ear canal. The symptom include a discharge (otorrhea) that appear white or pale yellow usually at the initial stages of infection.

Infected Ear with Otitis Externa
Infected Ear with Otitis Externa (Swimmer’s Ear)

A more serious infection of the otitis externa in the ear will lead to smelly yellow to greenish discharge from your ear.

2. Hygiene

Did you know that the general hygiene of your body can cause you to have smelly ear wax?  Excessive cleaning especially your outer ear can cause you to have offensive odors. This is unusual if you compare with other parts of the body where poor hygiene is the cause of foul smell. If you have a tendency of cleaning your outer and middle ear with cotton wool cue tips or matchsticks, then you attract infections.

It is advisable to resist the urge to insert objects in your ears, in attempt to clean the ears follow the recommended procedure. Physical injuries and infections are greatly increased and what follows is a smelly discharge.

In general, cleaning of your body, you should not allow water, detergents or shampoos to get into your ears. Some people are allergic to soap and once they get into their ears they cause allergic reactions and infections.

4. Cholesteatoma

This is a keratin mass buildup in the middle ear. It is considered as congenital or probably acquired and tend to predispose in the middle ear. Usually it appear as a mild infection in the ear but its effects can spread to chronic levels. It can cause erosion of the tissues around the ear and cases of affecting the skull have been reported too.

A chronic cholesteatoma can cause an offensive discharge that stinks. The patient usually feel no pain at all at the early stages. You may actually get hearing impairment if the condition is not medically attended to by an otolaryngologist.

5. Smelly ear wax tumors

Did you know that cancer can make your ear wax to have a stinky smell? A tumor can affect the outer, middle or the inner ear. Cancer can causes ulceration and erosion of the tissue lining in the ear. You are likely to have a foul smelling discharge often coupled with pain although at time the pain may not be there at all.

Brown Smelly ear wax in children

Does your child has a dark smelly ear wax? Ear problem in your toddler can leave you worried and frustrated. Your child is likely to experience symptoms like bad ear odor and itching. If there is an ear infection, a dark brown discharge will be visible.

According to MyoClinic, your child is likely to experience itching followed by a thick or thin clear discharge predominantly in the early stages of infection. A severe case of the infection also called the swimmer‘s ear will cause the ear of your child to discharge pus and excessive fluid drainage.

Ear Odor and Itching in a Child
Ear Odor and Itching in a Child

Itching and odor in the ear of your infant can be characterized by the presence of wax buildup in the ear canal. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, cerumen impact in the ear canal of your child causes a gradual hearing impairment.

Smelly ear wax no pain

A foul odor of the ear wax can happen with no pain. The odor may be associated with an ear discharge but not necessarily with pain. Tumor can cause ulceration along the lining of the ear canal. This can be less painful at the early stages but pain tend to come as the condition becomes severe.

Sticky smelly ear wax after swimming

Can swimming cause your ear wax to have a bad odor? If water enters in your ear during swimming and stays there for sometimes, it washes away the wax. You skin in the ear canal becomes prone to bacteria or fungi infection. You are likely to get otitis externa or what is commonly known as swimmer’s ear.

The infection in the ear canal happens when the lining of the canal becomes soggy and tends to provide moisture for bacteria or fungi to inhabit in the ear canal. Bacterial infection causes the ear to have a foul smell and a thick yellow discharge. Fungal infection causes a thin smelly discharge coupled with itch.

How to clean smelly ear wax

A foul smell of the ear wax can be embarrassing especially if you have to socialize with people in a social gathering or forum. Cleaning of the ear to remove ear wax depends on the age and the health of the person. You can clean your ear with smelly wax using home remedies such as mineral oil or baby oil. Here’s how to:

  1. Wash the external ear with a piece of cloth. Do NOT insert anything into the ear canal
  2. Use a medicine dropper to place a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil or commercial oil into the ear canal.
  3. Keep your head tilted to one side opposite the ear that has smelly ear wax. This will give chance for the oil to remove the foul smell.
  4. Remove the excess oil from the ear once you return your head upright
  5. Repeat the cleaning process to the other ear to remove wax buildup.

If you have an infection in your ear, it is advisable to visit a doctor to get rid of the problem. Antibiotics will be administered to fight bacterial infection. It is important to take all the prescribed medication even after the smell reduces, infections have a tendency of recurring.

Here is a Video on How to clean Smelly Ear wax

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