Benefits from the shape of our ears

Do you ever ask why our ears are shaped the way they are? A recent article in the Wall Street Journal explains their shape.

The outer ear that we see is called the “pinna”. The pinna is made of mostly skin and cartilage, and its shape allows us to gather sounds. The pinna is pointed slightly to the front so we hear best the sounds we are facing. The sounds behind us do not travel as well around the ear ridges and this allows us to better focus on the sound we are turned toward. Interestingly, the ridges and folds on the external ear help us to alter the frequencies of the sound and help with sound location.

As sound is gathered by our external ear, its shape also funnels the sound into the ear canal. According to Hear-it.org, without this “funneling” effect sound waves would take a more direct route into the ear canal, which would drive too much into the ear making it difficult for us to understand any sound at all. Rounding out our outer ear is the earlobe. Scientists accept that earlobes, although loaded with nerves, do not have a hearing function.

Finally, the ear canal has more functions than its name suggests. Not only does it act as the pathway for sound to reach the eardrum, it can also amplify the sound as needed to improve hearing. The ear canal also produces cerumen, which is better known as ear wax. Ear wax protects our middle and inner ear from dust and other particles, prevents dryness and helps fight off infections.

Our outer ear is much more than just cosmetic. Its unique shape not only gathers sound, but is the first point of contact that helps us hear well.