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Why does earwax smell?

Earwax is completely normal and an important part of keeping your ears clean and healthy. However, if you start noticing your earwax smelling, it can indicate a medical condition or another issue. Usually, smelly earwax is accompanied with other symptoms, so it is always important to get these checked out by a health professional for a full ear examination.

There are several things which can cause your earwax to smell.

  • Ear infections can either by viral or bacterial. Ear infections are often painful due inflammation and build up in you middle ear. An infection can cause drainage and you may notice a bad smell.
  • Swimmer’s ear is usually caused by water which stays in your ear after swimming. You may feel like your ear is still underwater. The water keeps the outer ear moist, which results in an infection and can cause smelly earwax.
  • Excessive earwax can cause blockages and cause an unpleasant smell.
  • Foreign objects stuck inside your ear can cause earwax to smell, often due build up.
  • Cholesteatomas are usually cysts and abnormal skin growths which usually develop behind your eardrum in the middle ear and are non-cancerous. You can develop cholesteatoma if you have had middle ear infections. One of the many signs of cholesteatoma is drainage or smelly earwax.
  • Ear cancer can occur in any part of the ear, but it is very rare. The main cause is unknown, but it can be caused by frequent ear infections. The most common type of ear cancer is Squamous cell cancer.

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