Want to dazzle your friends in Reno with clues about their physical health or self-diagnose yourself without consulting Dr. Google? Look no further than the ears! They often provide a surprising amount of information regarding what’s going on inside a person’s body.
What the Ears Reveal
The ears aren’t only conduits for sound; they can provide telling clues about a person’s overall health. The following indicators are especially reveling:
- Creased earlobes. A horizontal crease across the middle of the earlobe is called Frank’s sign and may indicate the presence of coronary heart disease. It occurs when tissue around the blood vessels of the ears and heart breaks down. A diagonal line alone isn’t enough to make a diagnosis, but if you are displaying symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath, make an appointment with a Reno health professional ASAP.
- Hearing loss. Not all signs of underlying health problems are physical. Hearing loss can cause a number of physical, social and psychological health problems, especially if untreated. Johns Hopkins researchers found that people with moderate hearing loss are three times more likely to experience dementia compared to those with normal hearing. Other complications include memory loss, social withdrawal, depression, diabetes and kidney disease.
- Single-sided deafness. People with hearing loss confined to one ear might have an infection or fluid in the inner ear or a benign tumor called an acoustic neuroma. While it’s noncancerous, it may eventually grow large enough to press against the auditory nerve, causing single-sided deafness. Other symptoms include dizziness, tinnitus and facial drooping or weakness.
- Tinnitus. A ringing sensation in the ears is often a sign of an underlying health issue. There are many possible causes of tinnitus including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, hormonal changes, Meniere’s disease and tumors. Those in Reno whose tinnitus is particularly bothersome might experience stress, anxiety and insomnia.
- Itchy ears. Itchiness in the ears is often a sign of eczema or fungus. White flakes and a red ear canal often accompany the former condition, while a white discharge might occur when you have a fungal infection. Any itchiness lasting longer than a couple of days should be evaluated by a Reno hearing professional.
- Earache. Children frequently experience earaches in association with infection due to their still-maturing anatomy, but the condition is rarer in adults. An earache may be “referred pain” from a toothache, TMJ disorder, cellulitis, tumor or sore throat. Frequent or persistent earaches should be checked out by a Reno audiologist.
- Wet, sticky earwax. There’s nothing unusual about earwax, but if the consistency is wet and sticky, your odds of breast cancer might be higher. This texture often occurs in response to a mutation on the ABCC11 gene. If you experience wet, sticky earwax – especially if there’s a family history of breast cancer – you should schedule a medical checkup.
- Red ears. Obviously, your ears are going to be red if you’ve spent too much time in the sun or have just done something embarrassing, but if neither of these things have occurred, you may be experiencing something more serious. Red ears can be signs of hormonal changes caused by menopause or a sign Red Ear Syndrome, a disorder that causes a burning sensation in the ears and may trigger migraines and cluster headaches.
- Numbness. Numbness that occurs with symptoms such as facial drooping, limb weakness or speaking difficulties may indicate a stroke. If it’s accompanied by vertigo, hearing loss or tinnitus, you might have an inner ear disorder called Meniere’s disease. Numbness and a tingling sensation that extends to other extremities, such as the hands and feet, is often associated with peripheral neuropathy, a common symptom of diabetes.
- Structural abnormalities and skin tags. Unusually-shaped ears that have excessive skin tags – small, fleshy growths – can indicate the presence of kidney disease.
Keep in mind that none of these symptoms offer irrefutable proof of an underlying disease, so approaching a stranger with red ears at a cocktail party and saying, “How’s your menopause coming along?” is a bad idea for a lot of reasons. Still, symptoms such as these are worth noting and, if accompanied by other signs, warrant a talk with your Reno audiologist.