The Surprising Thing Your Earwax Says About Your Health, Study Finds

You'd never guess that this connection between what's in your ears and your well-being exists.

It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul, but researchers say that it could very well be the ears that offer more insights into a person's mental health. A team at University College London (UCL) has discovered that a simple test that samples a person's earwax can reveal whether they have unusually high levels of the hormone cortisol, which could help to diagnose certain mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, and ongoing stress.

As psychiatrist and co-author of the study, Andres Herane-Vives, MD, explains, this new test could make major strides in the field of psychiatry, as getting a diagnosis right is "the only way to provide the right treatment." The earwax test provides physiological evidence of invisible ailments, which he says can be used to clarify which patients might benefit from antidepressants. While the study only included 37 subjects, it lays the groundwork for further research on biological markers for these psychiatric conditions, which can often be difficult to diagnose and treat.

Before the earwax test, blood, urine and saliva tests could all be used to measure cortisol. However, as Herane-Vives points out, these samples were limited to detecting short-term levels of cortisol, rather than buildup from chronic conditions and ongoing stress.

"Cortisol sampling is notoriously difficult, as levels of the hormone can fluctuate, so a sample might not be an accurate reflection of a person's chronic cortisol levels. Moreover, sampling methods themselves can induce stress and influence the results," explained Herane-Vives. "But cortisol levels in earwax appear to be more stable, and with our new device, it's easy to take a sample and get it tested quickly, cheaply and effectively."

And that's not all. According to The Guardian, the researchers believe the test could also have the potential to measure "glucose or COVID-19 antibodies that accumulate in earwax." Given that the test is inexpensive and can be conducted at home without clinical supervision, this could mean major advances in other fields of health. Read on for more ways that your ears can tip you off to a health condition, and for more on how you take care of your ears, find out why it's The One Body Part You Should Never Clean, According to Doctors.

Read the original article on Best Life.

You're at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.

Severe heartache, man suffering from chest pain, having heart attack or painful cramps, pressing on chest with painful expression. Photo of Mature man suffering from chest pain at home during the day.

If you happen to have a deep diagonal crease across your earlobe, you may want to speak with your doctor about screening for heart disease. This crease, known as "Frank's sign" and named for the doctor who discovered it, Sonders T. Frank, is a predictor of potential ischemic attacks, including heart episodes or stroke.

If you do have Frank's sign, don't panic: while it's associated with higher rates of these conditions, having one doesn't necessarily mean you will go on to develop a problem. And for more symptoms to be aware of with your ticker, here are 23 Unexpected Signs You're at Risk for Heart Disease.

You have a kidney problem.

Woman with kidney pain in bed in pain

When your body was still developing as a fetus, your ears and kidneys developed at roughly the same time. They also share "structural and functional similarities," according to the National Kidney Foundation. That's why certain ear symptoms including hearing loss or even skin abnormalities on the ears can help to identify renal problems, especially if there are other symptoms. And for more on kidney health, check out the 25 Warning Signs Your Kidneys Send You.

You have tinnitus.

white man pressing his ear and looking concerned

Got a ringing or buzzing in your ears? It could be something as simple as a buildup of earwax, but in some cases it's a sign of a deeper problem: tinnitus. This can be the result of a head or neck injury, or an issue with the temporomandibular joint—where your jawbone joins your skull. Speak with a doctor if you notice this symptom. And for more health tips delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

You have an ear, nose, or throat infection.

Male doctor checking throat of a female patient with the medical stick. Doctor checking a patients throat.

Ear aches should be met with a visit to an ENT, since they can signal a problem in any one of these connected systems. Your diagnosis could range from sinusitis to strep, with a whole host of possibilities in between. And for more red flag that something's amiss with your health, check out 40 Subtle Signs Your Body Is Telling You Something's Seriously Wrong.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
Filed Under