What foods cause ear wax build up?

Ear wax, also known as cerumen, is a natural substance produced by glands in the ear canal. Its purpose is to protect the ear by trapping dust and other small particles, and to prevent the skin of the ear canal from becoming dry and itchy. Excessive ear wax production can be caused by various factors such as genetics, aging, the use of hearing aids, and attempts to clean the ears with cotton swabs or other objects.

Although there is limited data related to specific foods that have been scientifically linked to an increase in earwax build up, we do know that a diet high in fat and sugar has been associated with an increased risk of various health problems, including some ear conditions. It’s always a good idea to maintain a balanced diet for overall health and wellness. Below we discuss anecdotal findings spanning 22 years of practice as they pertain to earwax build up.

Top foods that cause ear wax build up:

Gluten

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye that acts as a binding agent and gives elasticity to dough. People with celiac disease or gluten intolerance cannot tolerate gluten, as it can cause digestive problems and other health issues. Gluten-free diets have become popular for a variety of reasons, not just for those with medical needs. Anecdotally in the clinic I have found that people with gluten sensitivity experience higher rates of ear wax build up when not avoiding gluten.  Patients that are sensitive to gluten and avoid it by eating less gluten or well processed gluten do seem to lower their rate of earwax build up.

Dairy products

Dairy products in and of themselves do not appear to promote excessive ear wax build up.  That being said however, I have found patients with lactose intolerance that do not avoid dairy products experience more issues with ear wax build up.

Caffeine 

While caffeine is a stimulant that can affect the body in various ways, there is no direct connection between caffeine consumption and ear wax production. However, if you experience an increase in ear wax after consuming caffeine, it may be a coincidence and is likely due to other factors such as age, genetics, and environmental factors.

Sweet foods

While certain health conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis, can cause an overproduction of ear wax, there is no evidence to suggest that sweet foods have any direct impact on ear wax production or buildup. However, consuming a diet high in sugar and processed foods can have negative impacts on overall health, including inflammation and a weakened immune system, which can potentially increase the risk of certain health conditions that may affect ear wax production.

What foods reduce ear wax?

While there is no specific food that has been scientifically proven to reduce ear wax buildup, eating a balanced and healthy diet can promote overall ear health and reduce the risk of certain health conditions that may contribute to ear wax buildup. Here are some dietary tips that may help:

  1. Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated can help keep the ear canal moist and prevent ear wax from becoming too dry and impacted.
  2. Consume a healthy diet: Eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats can help reduce inflammation in the body and promote overall ear health.
  3. Consider omega-3 fatty acids: Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, nuts, and seeds, have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce inflammation in the ear canal.
  4. Limit sugar and processed foods: Consuming a diet high in sugar and processed foods can promote inflammation in the body, which can potentially contribute to ear wax buildup.
  5. Avoid allergens: If you have allergies, avoiding common allergens such as dairy, wheat, and soy may help reduce inflammation in the body and promote overall ear health.

Tips for keeping the ears healthy / Proper hygiene do’s and don’ts

  1. Avoid inserting objects into your ears: It’s important to avoid putting any objects, such as cotton swabs, bobby pins, or your fingers, into your ears as this can push ear wax further into the ear canal and potentially cause injury to the ear.
  2. Clean your ears safely: While it’s important to keep your ears clean, it’s also important to do so safely. You can use a washcloth to gently clean the outer part of your ears and avoid using ear candles or other products that claim to remove ear wax.
  3. Protect your ears from loud noises: Exposure to loud noises, such as loud music or machinery, can damage your hearing over time. If you’re in a noisy environment, consider wearing earplugs or other hearing protection to prevent hearing loss.
  4. Keep your ears dry: It’s important to keep your ears dry to prevent ear infections. After swimming or showering, gently dry your ears with a towel or use a hair dryer on the lowest setting to help dry any moisture.
  5. Treat ear infections promptly: If you experience symptoms such as ear pain, itching, or discharge, it’s important to seek medical attention promptly to prevent the infection from worsening.
  6. Manage allergies: Allergies can cause inflammation in the ear canal, which can lead to ear problems such as ear wax buildup or infections. Managing your allergies with antihistamines or other treatments may help prevent ear problems.
  7. Get regular check-ups: Regular ear exams by an audiologist can help identify potential problems early on and prevent them from becoming more serious.

By following these tips, you can help keep your ears healthy and prevent potential problems. If you experience any ear problems or have concerns about your hearing, be sure to consult with an audiologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Ear Wax Removal

It is also worth noting that excessive ear wax can be caused by using cotton swabs or other objects to clean the ears, which can push the wax further into the ear canal and cause a blockage. If you are experiencing symptoms such as pain, ringing in the ears, or decreased hearing, it is best to consult an audiologist who can safely remove the excess wax.

In conclusion ear wax, also known as cerumen, is a natural substance produced by the glands in the ear canal. It is a combination of secretions from these glands, along with dead skin cells and hair. Ear wax helps to protect and lubricate the ear canal and helps to prevent infections and other ear problems.

Ear wax is typically light brown to dark brown in color, and its consistency can vary from soft and sticky to hard and dry. The amount of ear wax produced varies from person to person and can be influenced by factors such as age, genetics, and environmental factors.

While ear wax is a natural substance that helps to protect the ear, an excessive buildup of ear wax can cause symptoms such as earache, hearing loss, ringing in the ears, and dizziness. It’s important to maintain good ear hygiene practices and seek audiological attention if you experience any symptoms or concerns related to ear wax buildup.

Dr. Al Turri

Al is the Director of Audiology for The Villages Health in FL, where he leads a team of nine audiologists. He earned a doctoral degree from the Pennsyvania College of Optometry School of Audiology in 2006. He was selected for a coveted clinical fellowship at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, where he completed his residency treating hearing loss, tinnitus and providing aural rehabilitation.
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Dr. Al Turri

Al is the Director of Audiology for The Villages Health in FL, where he leads a team of nine audiologists. He earned a doctoral degree from the Pennsyvania College of Optometry School of Audiology in 2006. He was selected for a coveted clinical fellowship at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, where he completed his residency treating hearing loss, tinnitus and providing aural rehabilitation.
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