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The Power of Two

Don’t Wash Your Ears

Published April 11, 2014 2:55 PM by Eleanor Wolfram

Now I have heard of everything. Just recently I read that scientists have discovered that by smelling individual’s ear - or earwax to be more precise - the scent can lead you to determine their ethnicity. Scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center have uncovered that depending on the race of the ear owner, the earwax’s (also known by the medical term “cerumen”) smell varies. In addition, examination of the earwax can determine whether or not an individual is of African, East Asian or European decent based on the wet-to-dry consistencies and colorations.

Name Brand or Generic

As a scientist, I find these findings totally fascinating. I have never given more than a thought about the sticky secretions that are produced by my ear glands. I have though longer about which type of ear cotton swabs to purchase, name brand or generic? But evidently some creative scientists have thought long and hard about earwax. Hooray for their ingenuity.

Whales and Humans

About a year ago, you may have heard (Yeah, that’s a pun.) that biologists discovered that the earwax from blue whales reveal their testosterone and stress levels, as well as all of the  pollutants encountered during their travels. These scientists theorized that earwax one day may even be able to tell medical scientist about an individual’s diet, genetics and environmental influences on their physiology.

I am smiling as I write this because which of us does not remember being sent back to the bathroom by a parent to re-wash our ears before going off to bed? If our parents only knew, we were washing away a gold mine of biological data.

posted by Eleanor Wolfram

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