The Sticky Truth: Foods That Cause Ear Wax Buildup

Ear wax is a waxy oil called cerumen produced by hair follicles and glands in your ear. This oil protects you by trapping and preventing germs, bacteria, dust, and contaminants from entering your ear canal. It can also minimize irritation from water and prevent small objects from getting into your head.

Unfortunately, excessive ear wax production may cause a blockage, triggering issues like hearing loss. This heavy ear wax production typically occurs due to genetic factors, poor hygiene, and diet. Thankfully, knowing how to increase ear wax production through your food and foods that reduce ear wax can help you.

Can Foods Cause Ear Wax?

Your diet affects everything about your health, from weight to energy levels. So yes, the foods you eat can cause excessive ear wax production. But what foods cause ear wax buildup? Primarily dairy products, processed foods, sugary meals, fried dishes, and salty foods: in other words, all the delicious stuff! To help you avoid this issue, let’s break down the foods that cause ear wax and examine which you should avoid to minimize excessive ear wax production.

Dairy Products: How They Affect Your Ear Wax

Studies have found that people with lactose intolerance may produce higher ear war when ingesting milk. This extra production occurs mainly with cow’s milk but is also linked to almond and soy alternatives. In addition, milk and ear wax issues develop across multiple age groups, including children and senior citizens.

In fact, the link between ear infections, ear wax, and milk products in children has been studied for over 50 years. As a result, many physicians have urged parents to test their children for lactose intolerance early in life and to track recurring ear infections carefully.

Dairy Products to Avoid 

  • Milk
  • Cheese 
  • Yogurt
  • Ice Cream 
  • Custard
  • Cream

Processed Foods: Gluten is the Issue 

Gluten is an essential dietary protein that shapes foods like bread and pasta. However, processed foods contain unnecessarily high gluten levels that may trigger intolerance. Unfortunately, this gluten sensitivity can increase ear wax production. 

Why does this happen? Gluten intolerance can cause unnecessary autoimmune responses and inflammation. This reaction makes your body produce more ear wax to keep you safe from infection. As a result, it’s important to limit your processed food intake whenever possible. 

Processed Foods to Avoid

  • Beer
  • Cakes
  • Pies
  • Candies
  • Cereal
  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Breads

Sugary Foods: Another Common Ear Wax Trigger 

Sugar is the body’s primary energy source, but too much can cause many health issues. For instance, studies find that high sugar levels trigger androgen production and raise testosterone and estrogen levels. Unfortunately, this reaction can increase ear wax production.

Furthermore, doctors discovered that high ear wax levels consistently predicted high blood sugar. Many physicians even check for excessive ear wax when testing a person for diabetes. It’s often one of the first warning signs of pre-diabetes and full diabetic symptoms. 

Sugary Foods to Avoid 

  • White Bread 
  • Cookies
  • Pancakes 
  • Crackers
  • Pies 
  • Cobblers
  • Ice cream 
  • Soft drinks
  • Sport drinks 
  • Juices
  • Energy drinks

Fried Foods: Another Health Issue to Avoid 

Among the foods that cause ear wax, fried meals cause the most health problems. Their high-fat content triggers plaque buildup in your body’s veins and arteries. This issue increases your heart attack and stroke risk. Furthermore, fried foods also trigger unnecessary ear wax buildup.

This link occurs due to fried food’s high-fat levels and vitamin deficiencies, which can trigger excessive ear wax production. So the message is clear: cut fried foods from your diet to keep your ears clean and avoid long-term health issues.

Fried Foods to Avoid:

  • Deep-fried meals (fish, chicken, French fries)
  • Egg rolls
  • Falafel
  • Cheese sticks
  • Chicken tenders
  • Tater tots
  • Corn dogs

Salty Foods: Something to Cut Out Permanently 

While a salty brine may help break apart excessive ear wax, salty foods increase your production. That’s because sodium increases your heart rate and may cause issues like inflammation that can worsen your ear wax production.

Furthermore, salty foods can cause other ear-health issues. For example, studies into Meniere’s disease find that overeating salt increases inner ear fluid and worsens this condition. Therefore, avoiding salty foods and minimizing extra sodium in your meals is essential.

Salty Foods to Avoid

  • Smoked, cured, or salted meat
  • Frozen breaded meats
  • Canned entrees, like spam and chili 
  • Salted nuts 
  • Potato chips
  • Pretzels
  • Buttermilk
  • Cottage cheese
  • Croutons

Are There Foods That Reduce Ear Wax?

Now that you know how to increase ear wax production by eating the wrong foods, you can choose meals that reduce your production. That’s because replacing foods that cause ear wax with foods that reduce ear wax can improve your overall health and keep your wax production reasonable. Even better, most foods that reduce your ear wax also provide many other health benefits that make them well worth considering.

Fruits and Vegetables: Vital Foods For Everyone

Yes, fruits and vegetables are less tasty than fried or salty meals. However, their vitamins and nutrients boost your overall health and can fight many common conditions. For instance, they can support healthy ear wax production by fighting inflammation that may increase buildup. 

Just as notably, fruits and vegetables can support your hearing health and guard against deafness. Note that magnesium-rich foods like avocados, legumes, kale, and spinach help your ears the most. However, adding any fruits and vegetables to your diet will benefit you.

Fruits and Vegetables to Eat 

  • Tomatoes
  • Blackberries
  • Summer squash 
  • Apples
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts 
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Oranges

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Cuts Right Through Your Ear Wax 

Omega-3 fatty acids provide multiple health benefits, but few people get enough in their diet. Unfortunately, low levels may cause problems like joint pains, cramps, allergies, and even high ear wax levels. Increasing your omega-3 fatty acid content should help manage this issue for you. 

Even better, higher omega-3 fatty acids in your body can increase blood flow to your ears and improve your hearing. Studies find it can help with multiple hearing-loss issues, including breaking apart excessive wax that may muffle sounds in your ear.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Foods You Should Try 

  • Fish (especially mackerel)
  • Oysters
  • Sardines
  • Flaxseed
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Soybeans
  • Most other seafood

Fiber: Always a Health Addition to Your Diet

Fiber’s connection to ear wax reduction lies primarily in its effect on inflammation. As mentioned throughout this article, inflammation can trigger unnecessarily high ear wax levels. However, fiber naturally fights this problem and can help wax production. 

Just as significantly, foods with fiber can help improve your blood sugar levels, which naturally decreases your ear wax production. The many other advantages of a fiber-rich diet make it essential for your health. Thankfully, you can eat fiber in many delicious meals.

Fiber-Rich Foods to Enjoy

  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Broccoli
  • Avocados
  • Berries
  • Popcorn
  • Whole grains
  • Apples
  • Dried fruits 
  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Figs
  • Pumpkins

Other Tips for Managing Ear Wax Buildup

Now that you’ve learned the foods that cause ear wax and switched to food that reduces ear wax, you can take other steps to reduce your production. But, even though dietary changes should help you the most, the following techniques can ensure that your ear wax remains under control.

Proper Ear Hygiene 

Ear hygiene includes cleaning the ear’s exterior and wiping away wax inside the canal. Typically, your canals shouldn’t need excessive cleaning, and using cotton swabs may worsen impacted ear wax. However, you may need to clean your ears with a cleaning kit if you notice:

  • Fullness in your ear 
  • A plugged feeling in the ear 
  • Ringing or tinnitus
  • Itching in the ear 
  • Discharge from the ear 
  • Partial hearing loss
  • Coughing

Ear cleaning kits typically include a small bulb that softly jets water and other fluids into your ear canal. This step should break apart buildup and let the wax wash out of your war. Other techniques may be necessary if you still notice symptoms after this step.

Ear Wax Removal Techniques

These ear wax removal techniques break apart harder buildups and help clear your ear more successfully. Let’s look at these techniques to help you understand them better.

Using Ear Drops 

These drops help break wax apart with a gentle but concentrated solution that minimizes symptoms. Follow these steps to break apart hard ear wax:

  1. Lay sideways on your bed or couch
  2. Position one ear face up and add the drops
  3. Let the solution sit for at least five minutes
  4. Place a tissue on the ear and sit up 
  5. Tilt your head to the side to let the wax flow out 
  6. Repeat this process on the other side 

Adding Olive Oil 

You may add olive oil to your ear-cleaning solution to gently break apart wax. Add a few drops in your ears with your cleaning solution or mix it with water and gently spray into the ear. This solution breaks apart ear wax more successfully and should work well for most people. 

When to Seek Medical Help 

Most people won’t need medical help for ear wax removal. However, if these techniques don’t work, your condition may worsen and become problematic. For example, too much wax can cause multiple symptoms that can affect your health adversely, such as:

  • Hearing loss
  • Balance problems 
  • Ear infections 
  • Bleeding ears 
  • Irritation and swelling

People Also Ask:

What foods help reduce ear wax?

Though we discussed this topic above in more detail, the TLDR answer is high-fiber foods, omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, and vegetables. Each meal type provides a rich array of ingredients, vitamins, and minerals that make them great for cutting through excess ear wax.

Why am I producing so much earwax?

Some people naturally produce more ear wax because of their ear shape, genetics, or high ear-hair levels. However, excessive ear wax production typically occurs due to health problems like too much blood sugar, inflammation, poor diet, and lack of exercise.

Is too much ear wax dangerous?

While excessive ear wax isn’t necessarily dangerous, it may cause tinnitus and other hearing concerns. It may even get infected and cause other health issues. As a result, it’s best to clean it out as soon as possible to minimize your danger and keep your hearing sharp.

How can excessive ear wax buildup be treated or prevented?

Typically, changes in your diet and lifestyle can help with ear wax production. Eliminate the foods mentioned above and eat more of the healthier alternatives we suggested. Furthermore, exercising may help reduce inflammation and blood sugar levels and manage your ear wax production.

Will ear wax permanently damage my hearing?

Impacted ear wax may cause permanent hearing loss if you don’t manage it quickly and effectively. Thankfully, it should take a long time before this problem hits that stage. That said, you should take it seriously and remove ear wax as soon as possible to avoid problems.

Photo of author

Stevie Compango, CNSC, CPT

Stevie is Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for the past 10 years. He specializes in mobility and chronic pain management. His methods have helped thousands of clients improve the quality of their life through movement.

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