Source: Sherman Publications

Don't Rush Me
Let’s show some love to ear wax

by Don Rush

March 12, 2014

In the past I have discussed the logistics of feet sweating something like 91 quarts of sweat a year. I have delved into the mysterious differences between men and women. I have even had the courage to explore what happens to a penny after it is swallowed.

I have provided a veritable font of wisdom about human anatomy and physiology. Which, to you may just seem interesting. To those who know me, it is downright amazing.

What I learned from my high school science teachers was . . .

1). The Krebs Cycle has nothing to do with spoked (or unspoked) wheels;

2.) The mention of blood and guts makes my hands sweat and turns my face a paler shade of white, and;

3.) Relax before you faint because if you tense up you may break something upon impact with the cold, tiled-floor.

(Who said the science department at Clarkston High School didn’t teach anything?)

Today, I plan to further amaze you with more fascinating human body facts (as I know ‘em).

Earwax.

Earwax is a good thing. No, I take that back. Earwax is a great thing. If it were a live thing -- aside from being a parasite -- it would be one of our body’s super heroes. In the dark and damp alleyway known as our ear canal, it is earwax that stops invaders from intruding our heads. It’s like biologically produced fly paper. Dirt, water, small bugs -- nothing can penetrate our earwax defense. Well, I take that back, too. Those big pincered, brain-eating earwig things from the movie Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn could make it inside our heads.

But, aside from science fiction critters, our earwax is a great first line of defense. Earwax is naturally slippery -- when water gets in your ear it runs out the ear canal, not in. And, it is acidic, which bums out infection causing bacteria. So, the next time you take a cotton swab to discard that sticky stuff from your body, take a moment and thank your earwax.

* * *

Guys, want to impress your gals, just recite the following facts sometime during your next date. She’ll think you’re smart (among other things).

Just what is earwax? Well, according to my extensive on-line research, I can safely say it is not paraffin, or anything like honeybees make. Earwax is mostly comprised of dead skin, sweat and oils.

How many glands are in your ear?

A. Zero

B. 26

C. 204

D. 2,000

It’s incredible that we hear anything with all the glandular secretion going on inside our ears, but the correct answer is: D. There are 2,000 glands inside our ears. Some maintain women gain more after marriage, which may or may not be why they can’t hear their husbands. (I think I’m gonna’ get in trouble for that one).

Get this . . . earwax comes in a variety of colors. It can be gray, yellow, pumpkin-orange or brown. Which explains why medieval monks, scribes if you will, used earwax as pigments for illustrating manuscripts. E-e-ew-yuck-ee . . .

How many types of earwax are there?

Answer: Two -- wet and dry.

According to Japanese genetic-earwaxologists, wet wax is common among folks of European descent; dry wax is common in Asian peoples’ ears. And, here’s something else they found . . .

“ . . . Dr. Yoshiura and his colleagues suggest . . . that earwax type and armpit odor are correlated, since populations with dry earwax, such as those of East Asia, tend to sweat less and have little or no body odor, while the wet earwax populations of Africa and Europe sweat more and so may have more body odor.

“Several Asian features, like small nostrils, are conjectured to be adaptations to the cold . . .”

Who woulda’ thunk it?

What I couldn’t find was how much earwax does the body produce. That said, I did my own mathematical equation. I can now be the first to say, with some certainty, that each ear produces enough wax to coat a single cotton swab every five days.

Five days divided into one year equals 73 swabs of earwax per ear.

So, 73 swabs of earwax times two ears, leads me to believe that every year me and you produce enough ear wax to fill a chap stick cap (or there abouts). That said, I don’t think we can make any earwax candles anytime soon.

E-mail your thoughts about human anatomy to Don Rush, Don@ShermanPublications.org