No matter how much we take care of ourselves, our body changes with age. It is inevitable and good news, because it means that we are alive. One of the most curious changes that take place is the ear size. If we look at any old man or woman, we will see that they are much longer than they were in his youth. Something similar also happens with the nose. But what is it due to?
This is a question that many people have asked throughout history. In fact, in ancient China, big ears were considered a sign of wealth and long life. Scientists have also asked themselves the same question, although the studies carried out in this regard are not as old as the issue may be. In fact, the first research on this matter was carried out in the 90s of the last century. A team of English scientists measured the ears of 200 people and verified that, indeed, these grow as we get older, at an approximate rate of 0.22 mm per year.
It is a minimum figure, but in 50 years it means more than 1 centimeter and that may already be noticeable. Now, here we must make a clarification and that is that, in reality, the size of the ears does not vary. In fact, it is estimated that the one we have at 10 years age is approximately what we will have for the rest of our lives. What happens, as a result of which their length changes, is that a series of processes take place that, accompanied by the action of gravity, make them hang down and appear larger. The ear is the same, but its elasticity is no longer what it was.
What causes changes in ear size?
We have already seen that the size of the ears varies a little each year, but in reality it is not the structure itself that does so. What then is the reason?
There are several hypotheses in this regard, but the most accepted ones are related to the collagen. This is a protein that is responsible for unite connective tissues and that, among other functions, makes our skin stay smoother. She is also in charge of give elasticity to cartilage. And this is where the ears come into play, since they are mainly made of cartilage.
It is known that, as we get older, we lose collagen. This can be enhanced by habits such as smoking, alcohol consumption, or excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation. All of these actions increase oxidation, which damages skin cells and also affects collagen production. However, no matter how much we take care of ourselves, the cellular aging itself derived from age also causes the loss of this protein. It is one of the reasons why we are getting wrinkles, although this is also influenced by the dehydration.
The issue, regarding the size of the ears, is that, as there is less collagen, the skin is less taut, so the lobes stretch. Additionally, the cartilage loses its elasticity, so the rest of the ear droops. effect of gravity.
Some studies have even used ear size as an indicator of a person’s age, so it is clear that there is an obvious correlation.
Other less proven causes
Some scientists have other hypotheses about the change in ear size with age. They do not question the action of collagen loss, but believe that there may be other reasons.
For example, in 2023 an article was published proposing that the tension caused by the facial fat accumulationsince the distribution of fat in the body also changes with age.
In reality, a good part of the fat on the face is reabsorbed as we age. Just look at how puffy children’s cheeks are and how flat older people’s cheeks look. However, aging does lead to the appearance of fat accumulations in some specific areas, such as the front part of the ears. That’s the reason why Muhammad Abrahamof McMaster University, thinks it may influence ear size.
It is a hypothesis with much less scientific support, so it would be necessary to investigate it in more depth. It should be noted that facial adiposity is more common in women after menopause, and that most studies do not find sex differences in the proportion with which the size of the ears changes.
Be that as it may, it is true that when we get older our ears look bigger. But that is not something worrying. After all, it happens to all of us.