British Ears

Saturday, June 01, 1996
RELATED TAGS: AGING
Do old folks have big ears? That’s the not exactly burning question the British Royal College of General Practitioners decided to answer, as a way of encouraging regular physicians to do more research. James Heathcote, a doctor from Kent, England, and several other doctors measured the length of the ear in 206 patients, male and female, between the ages of 30 and 93, from lobe to ear top. After accounting for natural variations in ear size and things like earring wearing (earrings tend to lengthen the lobe but don’t change the ear’s overall growth rate), the doctors found that ears grow about .0087 inch a year, or about half an inch over 50 years. Women, Heathcote says, start out with smaller ears, but theirs grow at about the same rate as men’s. As to why ears keep growing, Heathcote speculates that it’s because of the difference between cartilage, which ears are made of, and bone. Your bones are largely governed by your sex hormones, so they grow at puberty and are then stopped from growing, he says. But cartilage seems to grow steadily. Noses are also mostly cartilage, and Heathcote suspects they also grow with age.
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