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Author Topic: do people with big ears have better hearing?  (Read 19225 times)

paul.fr

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do people with big ears have better hearing?
« on: 13/07/2007 12:43:27 »
at work yesterday, someone said i looked like Gary Lineker! now i was not sure if this was because i was eating a packet of crisps or if they were saying i had big ears.

any way, this got me thinking. do people with big ears have better hearing. can big ears pull more sound in, like a satellite dish, say.


 

Offline Karen W.

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do people with big ears have better hearing?
« Reply #1 on: 13/07/2007 12:55:31 »
I have always heard that that is true as the bigger ear traps more sound..by protruding out further... I am no expert but In Choir we were taught to extend our hands in a cup around and behind our ears which would definitely trap the sound of our own voice and echo it back to our eardrum better because of the area your hand is covering.. try it I believe it answers your question.. they catch more sound!
« Last Edit: 13/07/2007 12:57:58 by Karen W. »
 

Offline dentstudent

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do people with big ears have better hearing?
« Reply #2 on: 13/07/2007 13:01:01 »
Bigger ears will catch more sound, but of course it depends on the actual hearing capacity of the inner ear itself. So it doesn't necessarily follow that they can hear better, only potentially.

Not all big ears are for listening though - elephants (again!) have big ears to help cooling blood.
 

Offline Karen W.

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do people with big ears have better hearing?
« Reply #3 on: 13/07/2007 13:06:39 »
I Know that about elephants I thought elephants had incredible hearing.. I thought that was a trait with them.. am I wrong??
 

another_someone

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do people with big ears have better hearing?
« Reply #4 on: 13/07/2007 13:07:53 »
All things being equal, probably so.

The problem is that all things are rarely equal.  Ears, like noses, continue to grow throughout life, so older people will tend to have bigger ears (even as a proportion to their overall size - particularly as the head grows less than many other parts of the body) than younger people; and thus the bigger ears merely compensate for otherwise deteriorating hearing.

Another factor must be the shape, as well as the size, of the ears.  If the ears are to better focus the sound, then they should be sticking out rather than lying flat against the skull.  Ofcourse, even if the ears do better focus sound from the front, this must be at the expense of reducing the amount of sound heard from other directions.
 

Offline Karen W.

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do people with big ears have better hearing?
« Reply #5 on: 13/07/2007 13:14:12 »
I have taken this from: AnimalPlanet.com

http://animal.discovery.com/fansites/wildkingdom/cave_elephants/expert/expert.html

Bong69: Do elephants have supersonic hearing, like dogs?
Peter Gros: They do. Elephants have incredibly keen hearing. They communicate with very low frequency sounds that the human ear can't detect. The most common elephant vocalization is a growl emanating from the larynx, what used to be called a "tummy rumble" This sound could carry up to 6/10 of a mile and is usually used to maintain contact with other elephants, as well as the subsonic infrasound.
 

Offline dentstudent

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do people with big ears have better hearing?
« Reply #6 on: 13/07/2007 13:15:06 »
And the sort of thing that they are listening to. Elephants communicate with sounds that are way below our own range, and so perhaps have more of a "feeling" hearing and don't need to catch as much. Smaller animals who communicate with high pitch might need proportionally bigger ears - eg bats - to catch the short wavelengths before they become absorbed into the environment. (The sounds that is, not the bats...)
 

Offline Karen W.

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do people with big ears have better hearing?
« Reply #7 on: 13/07/2007 13:20:34 »
All things being equal, probably so.

The problem is that all things are rarely equal.  Ears, like noses, continue to grow throughout life, so older people will tend to have bigger ears (even as a proportion to their overall size - particularly as the head grows less than many other parts of the body) than younger people; and thus the bigger ears merely compensate for otherwise deteriorating hearing.

Another factor must be the shape, as well as the size, of the ears.  If the ears are to better focus the sound, then they should be sticking out rather than lying flat against the skull.  Of course, even if the ears do better focus sound from the front, this must be at the expense of reducing the amount of sound heard from other directions.

So George, do you think that ears growing bigger as we age is our bodies way of compensating for gradual hearing loss.. would that be an adaptive quality a human has , say like when one looses their sight, other senses become more acute in an effort to compensate for the loss and adapt to the changes?? Strike that I missed what you said about them merely compensating for the loss.. ;D WE AGREE! Sorry George! LOL

 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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do people with big ears have better hearing?
« Reply #8 on: 13/07/2007 13:29:31 »
Why do elephants have big ears?

Because Noddy wouldn't pay the ransom!  ::)
 

Offline kdlynn

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do people with big ears have better hearing?
« Reply #9 on: 13/07/2007 23:16:12 »
i just tried to picture an elephant with tiny ears... lol...
 

Heronumber0

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do people with big ears have better hearing?
« Reply #10 on: 14/07/2007 12:40:27 »
Humans tend to also accumulate ear hairs as they grow older.  Could this be an adaptation to channel or 'absorb' more sound waves as well as bigger ears?
 

another_someone

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do people with big ears have better hearing?
« Reply #11 on: 14/07/2007 13:05:55 »
Humans tend to also accumulate ear hairs as they grow older.  Could this be an adaptation to channel or 'absorb' more sound waves as well as bigger ears?

I am not at all sure that humans do increase the number of hairs in the ears (or actually elsewhere) as they get older, but rather that hairs which were very fine, and not noticeable, become thicker and more unruly, and far more visible.

I doubt this would do much to reflect sound in any organised manner, and is more likely to dissipate sound.
 

Offline eric l

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do people with big ears have better hearing?
« Reply #12 on: 15/07/2007 09:12:20 »
People with bigger ears may be receiving more "sound", but that does not mean they hear better.
I don't remember (or find back) if it was on this forum or on an other one, we had a discussion about silence.  The conclusion was that in a silent environment, our brain simply increases the sensitivity of our hearing and we end up hearing our own blood flowing.
So I take it that if we increase the size of our ears, the brain will end up by reducing the sensitivity. 
Putting our hands to our ears will increase sound reception from one direction only, and may be helpful in "selecting" the sound of one source from all the surrounding sources.
As far as I know, the big ears of an elephant are not orientable and their role is more in improving the elephant's cooling system than in hearing.
 

another_someone

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do people with big ears have better hearing?
« Reply #13 on: 15/07/2007 11:36:00 »
People with bigger ears may be receiving more "sound", but that does not mean they hear better.
I don't remember (or find back) if it was on this forum or on an other one, we had a discussion about silence.  The conclusion was that in a silent environment, our brain simply increases the sensitivity of our hearing and we end up hearing our own blood flowing.
So I take it that if we increase the size of our ears, the brain will end up by reducing the sensitivity. 

Don't know that this is particularly relevant because it makes what in my view is an incorrect interpretation.

Strictly speaking, ears are passive devices, and so cannot amplify sound, but at best can merely focus sound, so improves directionality of hearing.  This being the case, any increase in noise that may be coming from the direction of focus should be more than compensated for by a reduction in noise from other directions, so there should in fact be an improvement in the overall signal to noise ratio.

 

Offline Karen W.

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do people with big ears have better hearing?
« Reply #14 on: 15/07/2007 18:44:57 »
I agree with you George!
 

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do people with big ears have better hearing?
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