smell behind the ears

Do you smell behind the ears? 3 Possible causes and Treatments

You reach in to give a hug to a friend. You get a whiff of smell behind the ears. The reverse could also happen; a friend hugs you and tells you they can perceive a smell around your neck region. Then you wonder where the odour is located.

Likely guess, It’s the smell the behind ears! How off-putting. You can detect a distinct smell when you rub your finger between your ear and sniff it.

It might remind you of cheese, sweat, or plain body odour. Here’s what could trigger the smell and how to get rid of the smell behind your ears.

Causes of the smell behind the ears

Most of the root causes for foul smell behind the ears is caused by excessive secretions, infection, grooming, and hygiene or a mixture of the three.

  • Hygiene and body secretions

Jumping in the shower is easy, always washing your body’s most visible and prominent areas, and forgetting the tiny spots behind your ears. After all, it doesn’t seem like a spot that gets dirty or sweats. Therefore, neglecting to wash it properly could be the source of the smell behind the ears.

Sweat glands are located throughout the body, even behind the ears. The sweat glands secrete perspiration that starts to smell when it comes into contact with oxygen and bacteria.

Furthermore, there are also sebaceous glands wherever there is skin Sebum (oil), a combination of wax and fats that may smell bad, are secreted. Together with the folds and grooves behind it, the coating of the ear makes it easy to conceal and build up all these liquids and their smells.

Smell behind the ears is often the case if you have overactive glands that secrete more than the normal sweat or sebum. You have a perfect chance of overactive glands if you have acne.
Physical barriers and pollution

Across the hairline and behind the head, substances may build-up, contributing to unpleasant smells. Such substances may include hair products, any smoke, vehicle emissions.

The following may also act as physical barriers covering the pores behind the ears or hold body secretions that enhance odour:

  1. Scarves
  2. Hats
  3. Long hair
  4. Earmuffs
  5. Hair product residues
  6. Cosmetics.
  • Earwax

Inside the ear, several sweat glands help form earwax. Tiny bits of the earwax could also make their way out of the ear and into the skin behind it. Earwax is a smelly sticky substance, even in barely noticeable amounts.

  • Infection

Infections also create a smell of cheese. Most often, the blame lies with fungi, yeast, and bacteria. That’s because they like moist, warm areas.

Additionally, bacteria, yeast, and fungi can develop behind the ears because of glass wearing, contagious discharge from an ear piercing or ear infection, and scratching ears with dirty hands. Wet conditions and skin irritation, in particular, can make things worse.

If you have had scratching, irritation, or ear bleeding, this may suggest an ear infection that involves the ear canal. Sometimes, even if the ear canal infection has cleared, there may still be bacteria or fungi.

The bacteria or fungi left behind after an ear infection can cause behind your ears to smell like cheese.

Treatment options for odours behind ears

You can get rid of a bad smell behind your ears by merely treating the cause. The following are ways to address that awful smell behind ears.

  • Disinfecting

Rub the region behind the ears with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, particularly after piercing the ears.

Also, make sure to follow the instructions of aftercare from your piercer. Furthermore, periodically clean and disinfect earrings.

  • Scrubbing, washing and circulation

Gently scrubbing and washing the area every day can quickly eliminate the odour. Leave the lower scalp, ears and upper neck exposed and free of hair or clothes as well as pore-clogging items.

Take extra cautions by performing additional care practices when the weather is hot, humid or after intense physical activity.

  • Medicated skin creams

When washing and disinfecting by yourself does not help to alleviate the smell, you may need something more concentrated on the actual underlying cause.

To better determine the cause, talk to your doctor. A doctor may also prescribe that creams that are antibacterial, antifungal, or anti-inflammatory, like hydrocortisone, can help with treatment.

Additionally, a pharmacy may advise on which over the counter ointment may be better for you.

  • Sweat reduction

If you notice, that being extra sweaty causes the odour between the ears, clean the area after exercise or being out in the sun with a damp cloth or fragrance-free wipe.

Therefore endeavour to keep the region dry by the use one of the following to do this: antiperspirant, baby powder, or stick deodorant.

  • Ear drops

If you believe that the remnants of an ear infection or extra earwax may be responsible for the smell, talk to a doctor or pharmacist about ear drops.

In conclusion

When you notice behind your ears have an unpleasant smell, there may be several causes, but there are multiple remedies as well.

You may have overactive glands that secrete excess sweat and sebum that can typically be treated by improving grooming and hygiene.

In some cases, the culprit may be an infection or skin condition, in which case your next line of defence may be medicated creams.


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It’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor if you try some different treatments and the problem doesn’t seem to clear up.

FAQs on Smell behind the ears

What are the causes of smell behind the ears?

The following are some of the causes of smell behind the ears, ear wax, infection, pollution, hygiene and body secretions.

What are the remedies for smell behind ears?

The remedies for smell behind the ears depends on the specific causes of the smell.

Some of the treatments include ear drops, use of medicated soaps and creams, disinfecting the ears, as well as proper washing and scrubbing.

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