The most common health concern to occur in your ears is hearing loss. Most people who live to old age will experience some form of hearing loss, and even those who take steps to protect their hearing are likely to experience some limitations in their senior years. Yet, the direct effects of hearing loss are not the only health concern in your ears.
The ears are very sensitive organs to their own health concerns, but they can also signal health problems in other parts of the body, sometimes very serious. The following are some of the conditions in the ears that can be taken as warning signs that another health problem may exist. Like a weathervane that detects the changing direction of the wind, the ears can signal changes elsewhere in the body, so pay close attention!
Creases on the Earlobes
One of the most peculiar signs the ears can send you is a diagonal crease in the middle of the earlobe. This feature, known as “Frank’s Sign” can be an indicator of coronary heart disease. If you have this crease, do not be overly alarmed; it is only one sign of many that you may have a cardiopulmonary issue to address. Although creased earlobes are only one marker, they are a good reason to seek attention from a general practitioner or a cardiologist, just to make sure your heart and blood vessels are in good shape.
Ringing in the Ears
Although tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is a health concern on its own, it can also signal related health problems. For instance, ringing in the ears might be related to an ear infection, though you would most likely have become aware of a painful infection. However, ringing in the ears can be a warning sign of the onset of menopause. Another condition related to ringing in the ears is Meniere’s disease, a condition of the inner ear. If the ringing occurs suddenly and persists, perhaps a visit to a doctor is in order.
Itching in the Ears
An itch in the ears that won’t seem to go away is probably a sign of eczema or a fungal infection in the ear. Eczema will likely lead to white flaky skin and very red ears, while a fungal infection can lead to a white discharge that looks like cheese. In either case, you will want to take care of the problem as soon as possible. Eczema in the ears can signal the same issue elsewhere, and there are ways to get relief through your dermatologist.
Wet, Sticky Earwax
All of us have earwax, and it is essential to keeping out harmful debris from the sensitive inner ears. Yet, if your earwax is of a wet and sticky consistency, you may have an important indicator. Although it may seem like a big surprise, wet, sticky earwax can be related to a mutation in the ABCC11 gene that has been linked to breast cancer. Of course, having wet, sticky earwax does not mean that you have breast cancer or even that you will definitely develop it with time. However, the correlation with the gene mutation means that you may be able to catch breast cancer even more quickly with regular mammograms and self checks.
Another surprising condition of the ears that can be linked to other health issues is the presence of “skin tags” on the ears. These small, fleshy skin growths, present from birth, can be linked to kidney problems. Since they are evident from birth, your pediatrician can use skin tags on the ears as a reason to run some kidney health tests on your newborn. Yet, if you have skin tags that were never noticed by a doctor, it might be something to mention at your next general checkup.
Although hearing loss is a health concern on its own, it an also be related to a host of other health problems. In the most obvious cases, accidents and injuries can be related to hearing loss, but other more surprising relationships exist, as well. Those with hearing loss are even more likely to develop dementia, so the time is right to get a hearing exam.
South Shore Hearing Center
If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing, contact us today at South Shore Hearing Center. We provide comprehensive hearing health services and are here to help you get on track to better hearing!