By Mitchell Hecht, The Inquirer
It's not your imagination. Ears do get bigger with age. Not only does the cartilage in the ear continue to grow lengthwise (but not with increasing width) throughout our lifetime, but the earlobe elongates and sags due to years of gravity.
A British report in 1995 in the British Medical Journal found that their ears elongated by 0.22 millimeter per year.
Another study determined that the average ear length is 2.04 inches at birth, and 3.07 inches in length in men at age 70 and 2.83 inches in length in women at age 70. In fact, detailed statistics on ear sizes have been used by forensic researchers to determine an unknown person's approximate age.
Brains pick out sounds from background noise
Our ears can effortlessly pick out the sounds we need to hear from a noisy environment - hearing our mobile phone ringtone in the middle of the Notting Hill Carnival, for example - but how our brains process this information (the so-called 'cocktail party problem') has been a longstanding research question in hearing science.
In a study in the United Kingdom, groups of volunteers were asked to identify target sounds from within this noisy background in a series of experiments. Professor Tim Griffiths, Professor of Cognitive Neurology at Newcastle University and lead researcher on the study, said: "Many hearing disorders are characterised by the loss of ability to detect speech in noisy environments. Disorders like this that are caused by problems with how the brain interprets sound information, rather than physical damage to the ear and hearing machinery, remain poorly understood.
"These findings inform us about a fundamental brain mechanism for detecting sound patterns and identifies a process that can go wrong in hearing disorders. We now have an opportunity to create better tests for these types of hearing problems."
Out on my ear
Play it by ear To decide how to deal with a situation as it develops rather than by having a plan to follow. ‘I'm not sure how many people are expected. We'll just have to play it by ear.’
Lend me your ear To ask someone politely to listen carefully. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Mark Antony begins his eulogy in honour of the assassinated consul: ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.’
Ears are flapping A person is listening in to somebody else's conversation
Sent away with a flea in their ear To angrily tell someone to go away. ‘He asked for money but I sent him away with a flea in his ear.’
Bend an ear To listen attentively.
Pig's ear I question the integrity of your statement.