Why Does Ear Wax Smell Like Vinegar?

There are numerous reasons why earwax smells. Other symptoms are frequently present as well, and they might assist you identify the true cause of the issue.

Excessive earwax

A blockage may result from excessive ear wax. The blockage may make the extra wax stink. Other signs of excessive earwax include:

  • earache
  • having trouble hearing
  • drainage

Ear infection

Your middle ear is where ear infections typically start. They might be viral or bacterial. Due to swelling and accumulation, infections are typically unpleasant. You may experience drainage and smell something unpleasant from an ear infection.

These symptoms and indications may also be present in children with ear infections:

  • ears hurt
  • a tug at the ear
  • difficulty hearing or sleeping
  • acting irritable
  • heightened crying
  • decline in balance
  • temperature of at least 100.4 F (38 C)
  • reduced appetite
  • headache

Additional to the discharge, adults may experience the following symptoms:

difficulty hearing

Foreign object in ear

issues hearing

  • pain
  • loss of hearing
  • infection

Swimmer’s ear

Water that remains in your ear after swimming is typically what causes swimmer’s ear. The water maintains moisture in the outer ear, which causes an infection. Your ear may still feel as though it is submerged, and the infection may result in foul-smelling earwax.

Other swimmer’s ear signs and symptoms include:

  • in the ear canal itching
  • the ear’s interior is red.
  • sporadic discomfort
  • pus
  • fever


Skin growths called cholesteatomas are typically cysts. They grow in the centre of your ear, behind your eardrum. These growths on the skin are not malignant. If you frequently get middle ear infections, you may develop a cholesteatoma. Some are birth defects as well.

One of the initial signs of a cholesteatoma can be foul-smelling earwax or drainage. Additional signs include:

  • a pressing sensation in the ear
  • ear pain or discomfort behind it
  • difficulty with balance
  • reduced facial muscle function

Ear cancer

Although it is extremely uncommon, ear cancer can develop in the ear canal, middle ear, or inner ear. The primary cause is unknown, but it can be brought on by recurrent ear infections. The most typical type of ear cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. Other kinds consist of:

Is earwax supposed to smell?

Why Does My Earwax Odor? Earwax is typical and crucial to maintaining the cleanliness and health of your ears. However, pungent earwax may be a sign of anything wrong. Your earwax may smell if you have a medical ailment or another problem.

Why does the scent of my earwax seem odd?

Pay notice if your earwax smells bad; it most likely means you have a serious infection. Earwax can smell awful due to the tendency of anaerobic bacteria, which means the organism doesn’t need oxygen to survive.

A foul odor may also be a sign that an infection is harming the middle ear. You might notice that your equilibrium is off and that the ear with the problem is making ringing or other phantom noises. I need to go to the doctor.

A team of Japanese researchers also connected foul-smelling earwax to a gene linked to breast cancer in 2009. Even though additional research is required to demonstrate this link, you should discuss it with your doctor, particularly if breast cancer runs in your family.

What scent does an ear infection have?

Most of the time, excessive secretions, poor cleanliness, an infection, or a combination of the three, are the core reasons of an unpleasant odor behind the ears.

Secretions and hygiene

It’s simple to hop in the shower, wash your body’s most noticeable features, and neglect the tiny spots behind your ears.

It doesn’t necessarily seem like a place that perspires or becomes muddy quickly, after all. So, failing to completely wash there could be the reason for an odor behind the ears.

All around the body, including behind the ears, are sweat glands. They produce sweat that, when exposed to bacteria and oxygen, starts to smell.

There are sebaceous glands everywhere there is skin. They release sebum (oil), a wax and fat mixture that has a pungent odor. All of these chemicals and their scents can be hidden and accumulated easily thanks to the ear’s overlay and the folds and grooves that surround it.

This is particularly true if you have hyperactive glands that secrete more sweat or sebum than is normal. There is a very good possibility that you have hyperactive glands if you have acne.

Pollution and physical barriers

Unpleasant odors might develop as a result of substance buildup behind the ears and along the hairline. These chemicals may consist of:

  • smoke in any form
  • hair care items
  • automotive odors
  • many trash and pollution types

Additionally, the following can block your ear pores or collect biological secretions that intensify odor.

  • lengthy hair
  • scarves
  • earmuffs
  • hats
  • cosmetics
  • residue from hair products


Infections frequently have a cheese-like odor. Most frequently, bacteria, yeast, and fungi are to blame. This is because they prefer warm, humid environments.

Yeast, fungus, and bacteria can develop behind the ears as a result of:

  • utilizing filthy hands to scratch the region
  • putting on glasses
  • having an ear piercing or possible external ear infection that is causing infectious discharge

Itching, discomfort, or leakage from your ear may be a sign of an ear infection that has spread to the ear canal. In some cases, bacteria or fungi may persist even after the ear canal infection has cleaned up. A cheese-like odor may develop behind your ears as a result.


The ear’s many sweat glands contribute to the formation of earwax. Small fragments of this wax may also escape the ear and land on the skin there.

Even in minute amounts, earwax has a strong smell and is a sticky substance.

Other skin and scalp conditions

Dry, irritated skin can be brought on by dandruff, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and frequent sensitivity rashes. The skin can become weaker only from this, but it also makes you want to scratch. As a result of contaminating the region with bacteria and contaminants, your skin becomes even more sensitive.

Stress on the body or mind can make you want to scratch more, which can only help these disorders.

Why do my ears feel damp when I first awaken?

Your ears are producing more wax, which is why they feel damp. That’s how easy it is, in fact. Ear wax, or cerumen as it is officially known, is a sticky substance that acts as a skin conditioner, dust collector, insect repellant, and has some remarkably potent anti-fungal and anti-microbial capabilities.

Ear wax starts out being extremely thin and clear, and as it gets older, it thickens and darkens. Because your ear canal is directly above your jaw joint, when you move your jaw, ear wax moves naturally outward. Consider this.

When wearing hearing aids, the wax cannot adequately expel and frequently accumulates in the canal. This is a manageable side effect of having hearing aids and is very typical.

First off, please refrain from cleaning your ears with cotton swabs. They merely serve to pack the wax in tighter and deeper, which will probably exacerbate the issue. Additionally, by using cotton swabs every morning, you can get rid of the thin layer of wax that your ear has been producing all night. If you take it away, it will merely have to repeat the process. Your ears feel more “wet” the more you clean. In fact, wait until you have seen your audiologist and she has confirmed that your ear canal is healthy and that your eardrum is intact before attempting to clean your own ears.

You can gently clean out your ear canals with a DIY solution once your audiologist gives you and herself the all-clear. See our article on ear care at home.

What does the earwax in your ears reveal about you?

Your cerumen’s color might reveal a lot about you.

  • Earwax that is dark brown or black in color is often older, and the dirt and germs it has accumulated is what gives it its color. Earwax is typically harder and darker in adults.
  • An injury that is bleeding could be indicated by reddish-tinged, dark brown earwax.
  • Ear wax that is light brown, orange, or yellow is normal and healthy. Earwax from young people typically has a softer, lighter hue.
  • Your absence of a molecule that causes body odor is shown by white, flaky earwax. If your earwax is dark and sticky, you should probably use deodorant.

Diabetes and earwax

Interestingly, according to practice recommendations released by the American Association of Family Physicians, patients with diabetes typically have less acidic earwax. People with diabetes should take extra precautions with their ears because they are less resistant to infections as a result of this.

Why is the wax in my ears fluid?

There is no particular color of earwax; instead, it ranges from white to orange to black, depending on your genetic makeup and how frequently you clean your ears. It might, however, occasionally indicate that you require medical attention.

White and grey earwax (dry)

The most frequent reason for flakes of white, flaky earwax is dry cerumen. But occasionally, it may also be a symptom of an infection or atopic dermatitis (eczema). If you have white or grey earwax flakes that are itchy, inflamed, or painful, see a doctor.

White-yellow-green earwax (wet)

Pus may be present in your ear canal if your earwax is wet, pale yellow, or white. Your immune system is alerting you to seek medical attention because of this pale discharge. Ear infections frequently manifest as pus in the ear.

Yellow-orange earwax

This is typical damp earwax, which is a genetic feature that cannot be changed. To prevent an impaction, keep in mind to frequently clean your ears. A blocked ear canal can cause ear pain, difficulty hearing, and itching.

Red earwax

Bright red earwax streaks are a symptom of bleeding. Blood in earwax can occur for a number of reasons, such as a minor skin wound or something more serious like an infection, a ruptured eardrum, or head trauma. Consult a physician.

An indication that ancient cerumen has accumulated in your ear canal is reddish brown or dark red earwax. It happens frequently, particularly if your body produces a lot of earwax. To keep the earwax under control, try washing your ears more frequently.

Brown and black earwax

Oxidized earwax has a dark color. Simply put, the honey-colored cerumen has turned black because the black earwax has been in your ear for too long and has been exposed to oxygen and natural bacterial fermentation. Some people may need to clean their ears more frequently to prevent dark earwax since they are more prone to excessive earwax formation.

Why does my ear’s back smell?

This is typical skin bacteria. Your skin’s germs and extra oil both contribute to the unpleasant odor. There may also be a buildup of pollution and hair products that adds to the stink, according to Dr.

What causes an abundance of ear wax?

Skin condition (such as eczema) Immune disorder (such as lupus) Rounded ear canals (from birth, chronic inflammation, or injury) due to injury, producing excessive ear wax

How can I tell if I have wax in my ears or an infection?

See if you have an ear infection.

  • discomfort inside the ear.
  • elevated temperature
  • being ill
  • a lack of drive.
  • having trouble hearing
  • A discharge is coming from the ear.
  • an impression of fullness or pressure inside the ear.
  • In and around the ear, there is itching and irritation.

Ear wax: A sign of ear infection?

You should see your ear, nose, and throat doctor if you are having ear discharge that is not earwax. This is a typical ear infection symptom. Earwax that is green or has a bad odor is another sign of an infection.

Your ear injury or an eardrum rupture may be indicated if there is blood in your earwax.

A deposit of dust or impacted wax is typically indicated by gray or black earwax.

Hearing loss could be a symptom of impacted earwax if you experience it. Your physician can safely remove the obstruction and provide you advice on how to avoid it in the future.

It’s crucial to remember that while you might feel compelled to clean your ear to prevent earwax buildup, doing so increases the likelihood that you will push the wax deeper into the ear canal and end up with a blockage. Washing your ears gently with water and mild soup is the greatest method of cleaning them. This will assist in cleaning out the ear canal and getting rid of any earwax that is about to come out.

Ear cheese, what is it?

How often do you start a conversation with your friends or coworkers by saying, “OK, TMI but… No bodily function is “strange” or “sick,” in our opinion, and there are no questions that are too awkward to ask. But we’ve got you covered for those times when you’d rather turn to the internet than your best friend for information. View All

Tell me whether this scenario is accurate: You catch a whiff of your fingers, which smell like… white cheddar popcorn? You’re sitting at your desk in the office or snuggled up on the couch, twirling your earring back (which is a calming thing to do with your hands, similar to twirling your hair, clicking a pen, or making a friendship bracelet). dietary yeast? smelly cheese WTF?

I’m aware that I’m not alone. Everyone I’ve spoken to about this nods in agreement because having piercings is a reality that nobody tends to bring up in conversation. As a result, I have completed the crucial task of looking into the cheesy-behind-the-ear scenario since I am now worried that someone in my life may believe my fingertips smell like yeast. And oil and bacteria are the root of it all.

Your ears are a cozy, warm anatomical nook where dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria can collect. Because of this, your mother always advised you to wash behind your ears. Purvisha Patel, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and the creator of Visha Skincare, adds, “It’s so that you clean out the oil that accumulates there.” These result in “ear cheese,” or a collection of rancid oil that is exposed to the air and dead skin cells because we are constantly shedding. People who sweat a lot and rarely change their earrings are more likely to experience it. (Me.)

Your earring backs are the ideal breeding ground for that stinky odor, especially if you exercise while wearing earrings (I’m guilty of this), don’t regularly clean them (I’m also guilty of this), and utilize big, tight earring backs (yep). Dr. Patel notes that the giant plastic backs are the main offenders for accumulating foul gunk. “Tight and larger earring backs can retain more sweat and sebum, as well as make it more difficult to clean or wash when in the shower,” he says.