The eyes may be the windows to the soul, but if you listen carefully, your ears can reveal a lot about you as well. Pierced, tattooed, or simply freshly scrubbed, your ears can give hints as to your personality and passions. Your ears can also alert you to hidden medical conditions. Of course, your ears let you know if you are suffering a painful inner ear infection, a bout of swimmer’s ear, or an overabundance of wax production. However, there are other medical conditions, seemingly unrelated to the ears, that can be revealed by them. Check out these 12 conditions that your ears may alert you to.
12. Possible Increased Risk of Breast Cancer
The consistency of that pesky earwax may give you clues about your risk of breast cancer. A 2009 study by Japanese researchers suggested that those with wet earwax were more likely to have a genetic predisposition for breast cancer. The jury is still out on whether wet earwax is a valid diagnostic tool, and it may not apply to Caucasian women. However, if you have other risk factors for breast cancer, wet earwax can remind you to perform regular breast self-examinations and get routine mammograms. Risk factors include dense breast tissue, early menstruation, and a family history of breast cancer.
11. Increased Risk of Dementia
Losing your hearing is often seen as a difficult, yet normal, part of aging. However, recent studies suggest that loss of hearing may be linked to a deterioration in learning, comprehension, and memory. The AARP lists several reasons deafness may contribute to memory issues such as dementia. The stress of struggling to understand conversations may take a toll on brain function. Additionally, the brain may undergo physical changes when the parts of the brain associated with hearing are no longer in use. Finally, the feelings of isolation experienced by those unable to hear may contribute to a decline in mental functioning.
10. Increased Risk of Heart Disease
Your ears may offer clues as to your heart health and risk of heart disease. Studies suggest that a deep crease across your ear lobe may be a sign that you are susceptible to coronary artery disease. This crease, known as Frank’s sign, is caused by a breakdown of the connective tissues in the ear and may be a sign that connective tissues are breaking down elsewhere in your body. While this sign does not definitively point to heart disease, it may be a signal to visit your doctor. Furthermore, implementing healthy lifestyle changes can decrease your risk of heart problems.
9. Kidney Disorders
Misshapen ears may signal kidney disorders. Studies suggest that certain unusual ear shapes may signal that the kidneys have structural abnormalities as well. Babies born with skin tags on their ears or cup-shaped ears may also have deformities of the kidneys. Cupped ears are those in which the top edge of the ear is folded over. An ultrasound of the kidneys can help to diagnose kidney problems in these infants.
If ear itching is accompanied by white, flaky residue coming from the ear canal, you may be suffering from eczema. Severe itching can lead to scratching, which damages the skin and allows an infection to take hold. If you experience aggravating, unrelieved itching of the ears that doesn’t go away after a day or so, contact your doctor to determine the cause and get relief.
7. Meniere’s Disease
This disease causes extreme dizziness, ringing in the ears, and deafness. The cause of Meniere’s disease is unknown. However, the Mayo Clinic states it may be related to fluid in the ear, a virus, an immune disorder, or genetics. Meniere’s disease is incurable, but treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms of dizziness and ringing in the ears.
Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, can signal other conditions besides Meniere’s disease. The hormonal changes that accompany menopause can also cause an aggravating ringing in the ears. Those troublesome hormones that cause irritability, mood swings, hot flashes, and wreak havoc on your menstrual cycle can also affect your ears. Studies indicate that hormone replacement therapy can decrease the risk of tinnitus in menopausal women along with providing relief from other symptoms of menopause.
5. Red Ear Syndrome
Redness and a burning sensation of one or both ears may be caused by Red Ear Syndrome (RES). There are two forms of this rare disorder. Younger individuals typically experience primary RES. Furthermore, they may suffer from migraine headaches as well. Older adults tend to experience secondary RES. Issues such as injury to the nerves of the head or spine, infections such as shingles, or disorders such as TMJ may trigger episodes of secondary RES. Treatment may include medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, tricyclic antidepressants, and certain blood pressure medications.
Numbness of the ear and face may be a sign of stroke. The American Stroke Association offers the F.A.S.T. warning signs to help you remember the signs of a stroke. They include Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, and Time to call 911. If you or a person near you experiences sudden numbness or tingling on one side of the body, stroke may be the culprit. Additional symptoms are confusion and difficulty with understanding, vision problems, trouble walking, and an abrupt, severe headache.
3. Tooth Infection
An earache often signals an ear infection. However, an earache may also reflect pain that is occurring other parts of the body. An infected or impacted tooth can cause pain that radiates up into the ear. According to the American Association of Endodontists, an abscessed tooth is one in which the tissue inside the root canal of the tooth suffers inflammation and dies. This condition can cause pain and inflammation in your mouth and gums, and the pain can radiate to nearby structures, such as your ear canal.
Hearing loss that occurs in just one ear may be caused by a tumor on an auditory nerve. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, an acoustic neuroma is a rare tumor of inner ear nerves. This benign tumor occurs when the body produces an excess of Schwann cells in the inner ear. These cells usually function to coat and protect nerves. When they grow out of control, they create pressure on nerves and can affect hearing and balance. In addition to hearing loss, other symptoms may be a feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear, problems with balance, and tinnitus.
If you experience numbness of the ears, accompanied by numbness and tingling of your arms or legs, you may have severe and uncontrolled diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic, diabetic neuropathy occurs when uncontrolled blood glucose levels cause damage to nerves. This damage is usually focused on the nerves of the legs or the feet, but other body systems can be affected as well. Mononeuropathy is a type of diabetic nerve disorder that targets a nerve of the face, torso, or leg. When the face is affected, the individual may suffer temporary vision problems or facial paralysis.