There Are Different Kinds Of Earwax
Thats right, surprisingly not all earwax is the same. It comes in two forms: wet and dry. What kind you have depends on genetics just like eye color. Wet earwax is the dominant gene, so its common for most people. Individuals with East Asian descent, from China or Korea, for example, usually have the recessive dry gene as do the Native American Indians. Its a detail important to anthropologists as they track the migration of different cultures throughout the world.
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Ultimately, the researchers hope to mine our ears for whatever health secrets they may hold. Monell chemist George Preti calls earwax a neglected body secretion. Other research has shown that you can tell a persons gender, health status and more from their underarm odors. We think it possible that earwax may contain similar information, Preti said on the centers website.
A giant earwax plug pulled from a blue whale recently revealed a fair bit of its life history, from its testosterone kicking in as it grew up to its times of stress and contaminants it picked up from the waters it swam in. So who knows, maybe human earwax is trapping a trove of health information. Already, earwax is known to give a heads-up to two odor-causing diseases before they can be detected in blood or urine. One is called maple syrup urine disease, which makes urine smell delicious but is actually a dangerous and deadly metabolic condition. The other is alkaptonuria, or black urine disease, also plenty frightening.
About 98 percent of Europeans have the smelly-armpit version of the gene, and along with it comes stickier and smellier earwax.
Im sure well all be sniffing our Q-tips now when no one is looking. Dont act like you wont.
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Some Surprising Facts About Earwax
- The long wax plugs in whale ears show dark and light layers that correspond to different feeding seasons. They’ve been used to indicate the age of dead whales.
- The wax plug may be as long as ten inches in the blue whale, which is the largest animal on Earth.
- Analyzing the earwax of a dead blue whale can indicate what pollutants it was exposed to during its lifetime and determine when the production of certain hormones peaked in its body.
- Pliny the Elder reported that earwax was a good treatment for bites from humans and serpents and for scorpion stings.
- Medieval artists sometimes added earwax to the paints that they used to illustrate manuscripts.
- Some cat owners report that their pet loves the taste of human earwax.
Earwax is a useful substance for us and other animals. We may not think much about it unless it causes problems, but it serves us well. Itâs an interesting material.
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The Final Word On Earwax
Earwax is produced by the glands in your ears from lots of different substances. However, humans are divided into two earwax groups: dry or wet. Information encoded in the ABCC11 gene determines whether you have wet or dry earwax, which also determines whether your earwax is sticky or flaky.
The colour of your earwax is both a reflection of your DNA and your health status. Even though your ears are self-cleaning, you still have to do regular maintenance to prevent a buildup that can cause a blockage. If you have abnormal ear discharge, please consult a doctor because your ears are the windows to your hearing.
Possible Symptoms Of Impacted Earwax
There are several possible symptoms of impacted wax in the ear canal. They can also be symptoms of other problems, such as an ear infection. Hearing loss can be caused by wax blocking the ear canal, but it can also be caused by a perforated eardrum, an inner ear problem, or an auditory nerve problem.
Symptoms of impacted earwax may include:
- hearing loss
- an itchy sensation in the ear
When unusual or unpleasant symptoms develop in the ear, it’s important to visit a doctor to get a diagnosis. If hearing loss is sudden or if one of the symptoms is loss of balance, a fever, or vomiting, the affected person should go to a hospital right away instead of waiting for a doctor’s appointment.
A hearing aid can prevent earwax from leaving the ear and cause it to collect inside the ear canal or the hearing aid.
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Earwax Safeguards Your Ears
Its role is to protect the skin inside the auditory canal. It takes just a small break in that skin to cause an infection that leads to an earache. The strange texture of the earwax lubricates this skin, as well, and it is a natural antimicrobial, so it stops bacterial infections before they can start.
Earwax is similar to other protective elements on the body like nose hairs or tears. You dont think much about them, either, but they an important part of preventing infection.
What Colour Is Ear Wax
Earwax can range in color from off-white to black. For most, the earwax you see is an amber orange to light brown and is a wet and sticky consistency. The color of earwax is usually related to its age the lighter in color the newer the earwax. This is also true with the texture the dryer the earwax, the older it is.
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How Is Earwax Buildup And Blockage Treated
Earwax can be removed in several ways. Some of these methods can be done at home.
You can clean the outside of the ear by wiping with a cloth. Dont wad up the cloth and push it into the ear canal.
You can use cerumenolytic solutions into the ear canal. These solutions include:
- Mineral oil.
- Hydrogen peroxide or peroxide-based ear drops .
- Saline solution.
With these solutions, you put a few drops into the affected ear with a dropper and lie on the opposite side so that the solution can drip into your affected ear. You can also soak a cotton ball and put it over the affected ear and let the solution drip into the ear.
Another option is irrigating or syringing the ear. This involves using a syringe to rinse out the ear canal with water or saline solution. Generally, this is done after the wax has been softened or dissolved by a cerumenolytic.
Finally, your healthcare provider can remove the wax manually using special instruments. The provider might use a cerumen spoon, forceps, or suction device.
Note: Your ears _should not _be irrigated if you have, or think you have, a perforation in your eardrum or if you have tubes in the affected ear.
How not to clean your ears
Dont use suction devices for home use . They arent effective for most people and arent recommended.
Ear candles, which are advertised as a natural method to remove earwax, are ineffective. They can also cause injuries such as burns to the external ear and ear canal and perforation of the eardrum.
Dominant And Recessive Alleles
Different variants or versions of a gene are technically known as alleles. Two alleles of the ABCC11 gene control earwax type and body odor. The ABCC11 allele that produces wet wax and smelly armpits is dominant, while the allele that produces dry wax and odorless armpits is recessive. Dominant alleles always do their job recessive alleles can only do their job when no dominant allele is present.
We have two copies of the ABCC11 gene in our cells. One came from our mother and the other came from our father. If both are the dominant allele, or if one is the dominant allele and the other is the recessive allele, we will have wet earwax and underarm odor. If both are the recessive allele, we will have dry earwax and no underarm odor.
Too much wax can block the ear canal, but too little can also be harmful. It increases the chance of infections and may cause the canal to itch.
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Its Possible To Clean Earwax Out Safely
Its not done by shoving a cotton swab in the canal, though. There is a reason mom said not to put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear.
First, if you have diabetes or chronic problems with your ears, let the doctor do the cleaning for you. If you do decide to do it yourself, add a few drops of baby oil to the ear canal to soften built-up earwax and, hopefully, dislodge it. Once the wax is soft, you can use a rubber-bulb syringe to run room temperature water through the ear. When the water is in place, tilt your ear to the side and allow it to drain out.
Dry the outside of your ear with a clean towel. If you are prone to swimmers ear or ear infections, a few drops of rubbing alcohol will ensure all the water dries up.
How Do You Fix White Ear Wax
If there is a slight buildup of earwax, many times, at-home treatments are successful. You can put a couple drops of baby oil or commercial ear drops into the ear, which should soften the wax and facilitate removal. The day after using the drops, use a rubber-bulb syringe to squirt warm water into your ear.
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Earwax Treatment And Self
If you donât have a perforation or a tube in your eardrum, your doctor may recommend that you try an earwax removal method at home.
You can soften earwax by putting a few drops of baby oil, mineral oil, glycerin, hydrogen peroxide, or over-the-counter wax softening drops such as Debrox or Murine into the affected ear canal. That may be enough to get the wax to come out.
After youâve tried a wax softener for a few days, use a bulb-type syringe to gently flush the ear with warm water. The water should be at body temperature to help prevent dizziness.
You can buy over-the-counter kits that combine softening drops with an irrigation system. Your doctor can explain which one might work for you and how to use it.
It may take several tries to get home treatment to work. If it doesnât, see your doctor.
Ear candling is not recommended. The procedure uses a hollow cone made of paraffin and beeswax with cloth on the tapered end. The tapered end is placed inside the ear, and an assistant lights the other end, while making sure your hair does not catch on fire. In theory, as the flame burns, a vacuum is created, which draws the wax out of the ear. Limited clinical trials, however, showed that no vacuum was created, and no wax was removed. Furthermore, this practice may result in serious injury.
Genetic Link Between Underarm Odor And Earwax
The Monell Center became interested in the properties of earwax after discovering that variations in a gene known as ABCC11 are related to whether a person has wet or dry earwax. This gene is also linked with underarm odor production.
Our previous research has shown that underarm odors can convey a great deal of information about an individual, including personal identity, gender, sexual orientation and health status, says study lead author George Preti, PhD, an organic chemist at Monell. We think it possible that earwax may contain similar information.
Given that differences in underarm odor can carry this level of personal detail, Preti wanted to see if earwax odor also has characteristics specific to ethnicity.
Pretis team collected earwax from 16 men eight of these were white and eight were of East Asian descent. The samples were placed into individual vials that were heated for 30 minutes.
Once heated, the earwax began to release airborne molecules called volatile organic compounds .
The VOCs which are odorous were then collected from the vials using a special absorbent device. A technique called gas chromatography-mass spectrometry was used to analyze the chemical make-up of these molecules.
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How Can I Clean My Ears Naturally
Lifestyle and home remedies
Too Little Earwax A Bad Thing
Everyone has itchy ears sometimes, but it can be a sign of low levels of earwax possibly due to excessive cleaning. Earwax is natural and doesnt need much help to clean the canal. There few reasons to try to pull it out of the ear, especially if yours are already itchy.
The itch usually means the skin that covers the auditory canal is dry because there isnt enough earwax. It acts as a natural lubricant, so removing it will just lead to more itching. Instead, try a drop or two of mineral oil to moisten the dry skin.
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What Your Ear Wax Can Tell You About Your Health
Like eye boogers, toe jam and snot, earwax is one of those bodily issues we’d rather not talk about. But that waxy, sticky stuff inside your ears is perfectly natural and even vital for your ear health .
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But the color, consistency and amount of your earwax can vary depending on things like infections, injury or even genetics.
Here, Michael J. Kortbus, MD, FACS, a board-certified otolaryngologist and fellow of the American College of Surgeons, helps us decipher earwax, explaining what’s normal and when it’s time to see your ear doc.
Some medical experts believe earwax signifies a great deal about the general status of someoneâs health and can be influenced by a personâs endocrine state â for example, that the nature and color of wax could change based on hormones or blood sugar â but this has not been proven in medical research, Dr. Kortbus says. More studies are needed to better understand the connection between cerumen and overall health.
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How To Find Out Your Earwax Type With Genetic Testing
There are a few ways to find out your earwax type, including taking a DNA test.
If youve already done a DNA test from sites such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA, you should have access to your raw DNA file. Next, youll need to download your file from the company website and then upload it to a DNA upload site that analyzes your raw DNA file.
Its essential to get your genetic test from a trusted DNA upload website that offers high-quality, evidence-based analysis.
If you havent done a DNA test, youll need to do that first. Then, you can come back and discover a world of new information about your physical traits, including your earwax type.
We provide unique DNA trait analysis for tons of physician traits, making it possible to learn more about who you are and how to live your best life.
Ready to find out what your earwax type tells you about how you perceive your axillary odor? Go on Genomelink now!
Ear Candling And Potential Problems
Some alternate medicine practitioners promote ear candling as a method for removing earwax. Health agencies say that there is no evidence that this process is effective and that it’s potentially dangerous.
The “candle” is a hollow cone or tube made of waxed cloth or cloth that has been soaked in paraffin. It’s usually about ten inches long. The tapered end of the candle is inserted into the ear and the other end is lit. The heat from the burning candle supposedly creates a negative pressure or suction that draws wax out of the ear. Ear candling is said to help a range of health problems in addition to the buildup of earwax.
Researchers say that the residue that forms on burning ear candles comes from the candle material and isn’t earwax. They also say that candles can:
- burn the face or ear
- block the ear canal with candle wax
- push earwax further into the ear canal
- puncture the ear drum
- delay potentially effective treatments for a health problem
Other mammals besides humans produce earwax, including dogs, cats, rabbits, whales, and many other animals.
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The Safe Way To Clean Your Ears
Its already been established that the ears are self-cleaning, so there is no need to dig around in your ear with anything long and skinny that can fit down there. This can easily damage the ear canal, making your issue a lot more serious. Instead, focus on cleaning what is on the outside of your ear. Cerumen is a lot softer when you take a warm shower, so this is a great time to clean your outer ear with a damp warm cloth. If you are prone to infections such as swimmers ears, just a couple drops of rubbing alcohol can help prevent this condition by drying up excess water. If you do have an issue with your ears, make sure to make an appointment for a hearing test. We can diagnose your hearing and help you find the best treatment for your ear issues.