Mental health issues have increased around the world since the coronavirus pandemic started earlier this year. Increased stress levels cause a disturbance in hormones that leads to depression and other disorders. Scientists have recently developed an easy ear wax test to check the level of cortisol, also known as a stress hormone in the body.
The research was published recently in the journal Heliyon.
According to the researchers, this diagnostic test is groundbreaking for people with abnormal stress levels or those with depression. This is an easy test that does not require the supervision of a health professional. Hence, you can perform it on your own in the vicinity of your home.
Researchers also mentioned that this test can also help in coronavirus diagnosis. It can measure the level of antibodies against coronavirus accumulated in ear wax. This can indicate a positive coronavirus infection.
There are various methods to measure the cortisol level in the body. However, this ear wax test is the easiest and cheapest method out of the rest of them.
Dr. Andres Herane-Vives from University College London is the lead researcher for this study. He said that saliva, urine, and blood are also used to determine the cortisol level in the blood. However, these samples can only show the level of cortisol or stress hormone at a particular time. Meanwhile, the ear wax test gives results from a significant period as ear wax accumulates over time.
Any other sample from the body can not show the chronic level of cortisol. It is fairly difficult to determine a mental health condition through a stress hormone level test. These hormones keep fluctuating depending on the conditions and thoughts of the patient. The hormone level can increase while a health worker is taking their sample as well.
Dr. Herane-Vives said that earwax is a reliable sample for measuring hormone levels as it is more stable. The newly developed device can easily extract the sample and give effective and quick results. Also, this method is easy to operate and cheap.
The device used for this test has a similar structure to an ear swab. However, it does not go too far to damage the insides of the ear. The tip of the device consists of organic material and a solution to take the sample from the ear. The solution is reliable and takes the ear wax sample effectively.
The research team for this study included researchers from Germany, Chile, and the UK. These researchers conducted this study on 37 participants and compared the results from different sampling methods. They also took blood and hair samples of these participants to test their stress hormone levels.
The findings of this study showed that the ear wax sample had more stress hormones than other samples. Also, the ear wax sampling was the most efficient, cheap, and fast technique. The researchers are extending this technique for testing other health conditions such as diabetes and the novel coronavirus.
They will test if the device can show glucose level or coronavirus antibodies in the ear wax sample. This ear wax test can prove highly beneficial for people who suffer from mental health disorders such as depression.