Earwax is strange stuff. Why do our bodies produce it? Doctors still aren’t completely sure of all of its properties, but they know that it serves as an important protector of the inner ear, and that it can reveal things about our general health. Read on to find out more about this interesting, sticky substance and how it safeguards our hearing.
Cerumen, medically speakingEarwax is also known as cerumen, and is made up of oil, sweat, dirt and dead skin cells. Not too appealing, perhaps, but the sticky nature of this substance is what makes it so beneficial to our ears. Earwax has the perfect consistency for trapping microscopic debris that could potentially find its way into the ear canal. The inner ear is composed of intricate and somewhat fragile mechanisms that are vital to hearing, so it makes sense that the body has a way to protect the ear canal from harmful outside elements.
It’s a multi-tasking wonderEarwax not only acts as a shield, blocking dust and debris, it also creates an acidic environment in the ear canal so that harmful bacteria cannot take hold. In addition, it naturally prevents the ear canal from becoming dry, flaky and irritated, due to its emollient properties. The lubrication provided by earwax also acts as a water-barrier, further impeding harmful bacteria from growing in the ear canal. Finally, this multi-tasking substance boasts a chemical composition which helps to keep bugs at bay, while its stickiness traps any bugs that may find their way inside. Impressed yet?
What your earwax says about youA lot can be told from a person’s earwax. Although it is a substance that nearly everyone’s ears produce, it differs widely in its composition. These differences depend on one’s ethnicity, diet, age, general health and even their environment. A few facts:
- Dark brown or black earwax is typically older and its color comes from the dirt and bacteria it has trapped. Adults usually have earwax that is darker and harder in consistency.
- Children usually have softer, light-colored earwax.
- Dark brown earwax tinged with red may be a sign of a bleeding injury.
- Earwax that is healthy and normal will typically be light brown, orange, yellow or white.
- Light, flaky earwax is usually a sign that you lack a body-odor producing chemical. If you have dark earwax, you are probably the type of person that needs deodorant.
- East Asians and Native Americans tend to have white, dry earwax that is odor-less, while Caucasians and African groups typically have yellow, wet, odorous earwax.
- Earwax has already been shown to give an early warning sign to two odor-causing diseases before they can be detected in blood or urine, and researchers think it may contain even more health information.