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Black Earwax: The Causes, Complications, and Treatments

Woman Cleaning Ear
Few people probably stop to think about the color of their earwax and what it means to their health. However, people who get a bit of black earwax out of their ear canal may be shocked and a little concerned. Unfortunately, these individuals should be worried because black earwax could be a signal of a litany of problems that could lead to temporary — or even permanent — hearing damage. 
The Color of Ear Wax Matters
The color of an individual's earwax will vary depending on a variety of factors. Most individuals have light brown, orange, or yellow earwax in their ears when they wake up. This color is normal and healthy. However, other colors — such as black or dark brown wax with a red tint — are a signal of health problems. 
Earwax is only dark in color when it is allowed to collect dirt or other contaminants. As a result, black earwax indicates a potential for infections with dirt or bacteria. Black earwax with a red tinge is not only older than other types of waxes but could indicate blood in the ear canal. Unfortunately, this situation can be a sign of an earwax blockage.
Wax Blockage Has Many Causes 
Earwax blockage occurs when individuals don't take the time to remove excess wax from their ears regularly. Unfortunately, people trying to clean their ears may also make blockage worse. A blockage, or impaction, most commonly happens when people try to clean their ears out with Q-tips or if they push too deeply into the canal. 
When this happens, the impacted wax will sit in the canal and can cause muffled hearing that may disappear with wax removal. Unfortunately, compacted wax can also cause other complications with a person's ears and their overall hearing, especially if the black wax is pushed further inside of the ear canal.
Excessive Earwax Can Cause Hearing Problems 
When people let compacted earwax remain an issue, they can trigger a multitude of hearing-related problems. For example, Harvard Health Publishing states that excessive earwax can trigger infections in the ear and complicate the production of earwax. Remember: even though the ear canal may be filled with wax, the body is still producing new earwax to protect the ears. 
Excessive earwax — especially when it gets black — could damage the eardrum and trigger infections that seriously affect a person's hearing. In some cases, this loss is temporary. However, wax that is allowed to remain for too long may cause permanent damage. Therefore, treatment is necessary for this problem.
Treatment Avoids Hearing Issues 
Individuals with black earwax should add a little warm water to their ears to soften hard wax and make it easier to remove. After adding warm water, just tilt the head to let the wax flow out of the canal. Avoid cleaning methods like Q-tips or earwax candles. These traditional techniques produce more problems than they do real solutions. 
In some cases, a visit to a hearing specialist may be necessary to remove black wax that just won't come out. This step is wise because a medical professional can safely remove a blockage without causing damage. Amateur wax removal could cause some hearing damage, though the risk is usually minor. 
Treatment Should Be Done Soon
With the proper treatment for black earwax, individuals can prevent hearing problems and stay healthy. Those who haven't properly managed this problem typically need professional care right away for their hearing. Don't hesitate to contact us at Birmingham Hearing & Balance Center to set up an appointment if black earwax is affecting you. We will be happy to help you with any of your ear-related concerns.