Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Shape of Ears

Some ears are described as being jumbo in size and may even protrude or stick out.  Other people have smaller, flatter ears.  The shape of the ear does have an effect on how a person hears.  Ears deliver sounds to the eardrum and eventually to the brain.  The outer flap of the ear is called the pinna and is the sound-gatherer.  Because the ear is pointed slightly to the front, it gathers more sound from what it is facing rather than from behind.  Large ear flaps should help drown out ambient noise from behind, whereas people with flatter ears may better pick up sound coming from behind.

Earlobe shapes, whether attached or free hanging, tend to be genetic and probably do not affect acoustic ability.  The swirly shape of the ear leads sound down to the auditory canal which acts as an amplifier.  At the end of the canal is the eardrum.  It is protected, hypersensitive to sound, and has the unusual ability to heal on its own, even if it is torn.  Eustachian tubes help equalize pressure, and the inner ear on the other side of the eardrum is a space filled with fluid that transmits sound waves ultimately to the brain.

The ear is a self-cleaning, self-oiling machine, eliminating the need for Q-tips.  Placing objects inside the ear can impact ear wax that is meant to capture and expel dirt.  Cleaning ears can actually dampen hearing.  Ear wax amount and type is inherited as a single gene.