To think that our ears are capable of doing more than hearing seems hard to believe. But the ears are in fact responsible for other major tasks too. For example, they regulate balance and send info about your head position to your brain. In addition, everything about your ears, including the wax they produce, can potentially provide clues about the state of your general health. Here are 6 things your ears may be trying to tell you:
1. You have diabetes - or are at risk of developing it
In the US, hearing loss is the third most common health problem. But, it can also be a symptom of various systemic diseases like diabetes. In fact, a 2008 study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that hearing loss is twice as common among people who have diabetes. Pre-diabetic adults (whose blood glucose levels are above-normal) had a 30% higher rate of hearing loss than people with normal blood sugar levels. The link between hearing loss and diabetes is not yet known, but it may have something to do with blood sugar supply to the inner ear, which can be compromised in diabetics. Furthermore, metabolic changes that occur in diabetics can be toxic to the inner ear particularly when the disease isn't well-managed.
2. Your arteries may be clogged
Next time you're in front of the mirror check your earlobes. Are they smooth and unwrinkled? Then you don't need to be concerned. If however you spot a diagonal crease, it might be worth bringing the subject matter up with your doctor, as this could be an indicator of heart disease. In fact, in a 2012 study, conducted at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and published in The American Journal of Cardiology, found that subjects with a diagonal earlobe crease were more likely to show signs of heart disease in comparison to those with wrinkle-free earlobes. Nevertheless, some doctors are skeptical about this. Still, it doesn't hurt to look into it.
3. You may need to visit your dentist
If you tend to experience ear pain often, the problem may actually be caused by a jaw problem. In fact frequent ear pain is often misdiagnosed. One frequent culprit is a disorder of the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, which connects your jaw to the bones that sit in front of each ear. This condition may trigger ear pain when you chew, talk or open your mouth wide. So, if you continue to experience ear pain, but get a clean bill of health from your ENT, you might want to book an appointment with your dentist.
4. You're suffering from anxiety, high blood pressure, or rarely a brain tumor
Ringing in the ears is a condition known as tinnitus, which can be a symptom of almost 200 different problems. Symptoms may vary from anxiety and depression to hypertension. It may also occur after you have attended a particularly loud concert. Consequently, the symptom by itself is no cause for concern. In rare cases, tinnitus can indicate a benign brain tumor known as an acoustic neuroma, which grows on the nerve, affecting hearing. If tinnitus occurs for a short time, you need not worry. See your doctor if it persists for a couple of months though.
5. You're struggling with allergies
Allergy symptoms are usually flagged when your eyes start to water or you get a runny nose. Nevertheless, you should pay attention to your ears too. If they itch, swell or feel clogged, it may mean that something is not agreeing with you. When you nose gets congested, it affects the functionality of the Eustachian tube that connects your nose to your ears, leading to a sensation of clogged ears. Using a humidifier, popping decongestants and drinking lots of fluids should help ease nasal congestion, relieving that muffled-ear feeling.
6. You are predisposed to certain illnesses
Earwax acts as a lubricant and antibacterial shield that prevents things from getting into your ear. Still, there may be a correlation with earwax and different diseases. In fact, the DNA of some illnesses, like hepatitis, may show up in earwax. Your earwax consistency may also be a predictor of disease. In 2009, a Japanese study linked mutations in a gene called ABCC11 - which is associated with an increased chance of developing breast cancer, to wet, sticky earwax. Still, you need not panic if your earwax is wet and sticky as studies still need to establish a causational relationship between earwax and breast cancer. Nevertheless, asking your doctor to analyze your earwax may be crucial.