You may have been sporting a bit of ear hair for years or maybe just noticed some for the first time. Either way, you could be wondering: What’s the deal with hair growing on and inside of my ears? The first thing you need to know is that having ear hair is completely normal.
Lots of people, mostly adult men, start to notice more hair growing out of their ears as they age. There’s not a lot of scientific evidence to explain why this happens, but the good news is that even an abundance of hair sprouting out of your ears probably isn’t cause for alarm. There are a few health problems associated with extra ear hair, but in most cases, there’s no medical need to remove it.
Almost everybody has a thin coating of tiny hair covering much of their bodies, including the outer ear and ear lobes. This peach fuzz-like layer is called vellus hair. This type of hair first develops in childhood and helps the body regulate temperature.
Although vellus hair can grow long in older age, it lacks pigment and is hard to see. This type of ear hair is incredibly common, difficult to notice, and probably won’t ever bother you.
If you’re searching the internet to find out about long or wiry hairs sprouting from inside your or a loved one’s ears, you’re probably looking at tragi hairs. Tragi hairs are terminal hairs, which are thicker and darker than vellus hairs. They usually provide protection. Tragi hairs start in your exterior ear canal, and in some cases can grow to stick out of the ear in tufts.
Terminal ear hair works together with your body’s natural ear wax to form a protective barrier. Just like nose hair, it helps to prevent germs, bacteria, and debris from getting inside your inner ear and causing potential damage.
So having some ear hair isn’t just normal, it’s actually a good thing. Sometimes people grow more ear hair than they need, and some choose to remove or trim it.
Usually, the question of whether or not to remove ear hair is purely cosmetic. If you do decide you want to remove it, there are a few good options.
You can buy a trimmer or tweezers to take care of ear hair quickly and easily at home, but you’ll have to repeat this often. You can go to a salon every now and then to have it waxed. This will last much longer but comes with a certain “ouch” factor.
You can also have several laser hair removal sessions to remove hair for good. Just know that the permanent option comes with a high price tag.
For the most part, having some ear hair (even what may look like a lot) is perfectly normal and isn’t cause for worry.
That said, occasionally too much ear hair can crowd and clog the ear canal. It could make you more susceptible to mild conditions like swimmer’s ear by narrowing the ear canal so water gets trapped inside.
Similarly, removing extra ear hair can be a treatment for tinnitus (also known as a ringing in the ears).
On the more serious side, there is some medical controversy over whether or not ear canal hair that occurs along with a crease in the ear lobe can predict a higher occurrence of coronary artery disease (CAD). A recent literature review cites one 1989 study that showed a correlation between Indian men with ear hair (and ear lobe crease) with developing heart disease.
However, the study only included South Asian participants. The analysis also points to the fact that some follow-up studies have failed to show a significant correlation. So as of now, we don’t know for sure if ear hair might mean you’re more likely to develop CAD.
There seems to be more evidence suggesting that a natural crease in one’s ear lobe is a clearer predictor of CAD. And ear lobe creases and excess ear hair often occur together, which may be why we have this debatable association of ear hair and CAD.
Although it’s possible for anyone to develop extra ear hair, most cases occur in adult or older men. Ear hair begins to grow thicker and longer later in life when the normal growth and shedding patterns of hair follicles can sometimes get “out of whack.”
An article in Scientific American suggests that one reason men notice more ear hair later in life is because the follicle becomes more sensitive to their testosterone levels and grows bigger. This means the hair itself will become thicker. This theory would also explain why women don’t experience ear hair growth the same way many men do.
People from some ethnic backgrounds seem to be more likely to grow excess ear hair than others. Again, there is very little clinical research available on ear hair, but an older study from 1990 noted a particularly high instance of ear hair in South Asian populations.
According to Guinness World Records, the longest ear hair in the world belongs to Victor Anthony, a retiree from Madurai, India. It measures just over 7 inches long.
In the vast majority of cases, excess ear hair is normal and harmless, though it may be a good idea to have it examined by your doctor during routine physicals.
You can remove it for cosmetic reasons with a very low risk, or simply leave it alone.