Quirks & Quarks

Why do we have wax in our ears?

The wax in our ears serves many important physiologic functions as well as helps to provide information about various diseases.
Ear wax serves many important physiologic funtions (Tim Boyle/Getty)

Dr. Michael Gupta, an Associate Professor of Surgery and Otolaryngology at McMaster University in Hamilton, describes how ear wax deserves more praise than scorn.  It serves many important physiologic functions, including moisturizing and lubricating our ears.  It also resists ear infection by producing antibacterial proteins, helps the ear's self-cleaning mechanism and keeps other dirt out.  But ear wax also has a few interesting novel functions.  
The type of ear wax - wet or dry - can provide clues to patterns of human migration.  It can also be used to look for evidence of some diseases, and it can even be used to determine paternity.  There is more to ear wax than meets the eye.