Thursday, January 24, 2008

Our ears grow throughout lifetime

baby's ear
The outer ears are the only parts of the human body that continue to grow until death. Head, trunk, arms, legs, hands and feet, all the inner and outer organs stop when fully grown in adult age. Even the nose of Cyrano de Bergerac did not grow forever. Hair and nails do, but these are expendable items that constantly must be replaced.

In contrast, the human outer ear is something very special. In proportion to body size at birth, it is the biggest of all organs, even bigger than the head. And it continues to grow throughout lifetime, mostly in childhood and then slowly decreasing, but never stopping until death.

The greatest ear length is 52 millimeters (2.04 inches) at birth on average; at seventy years of age it is 78 millimeters (3.07 inches) in men and 72 millimeters (2.83 inches) in women. About half of the growth between birth and old age is reached at age twenty. But the inner part of the auricle, the so-called concha, has reached its final size already at birth. Detailed statistics about ear sizes may be used for forensic age estimations.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/breckenpool/37345467/

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