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  • Let's hear it for ears!

  • As unique to us as our fingerprints are,

  • these curly, bendy bits of cartilage - called pinna -

  • have grown out the side of our heads for good reason.

  • Back in the day, they helped us hunt by pinpointing which direction

  • that rustling in the bushes was coming from.

  • But perhaps most importantly,

  • ears help us communicate with other human beings.

  • Even before we emerge from the womb,

  • we've decided whose voice we like most -

  • it's our mammy's!

  • And we've probably had a wee jive to her favourite songs,

  • because our lugs are already listening

  • when we're minus 20 weeks old.

  • After we're born, our sticky-out ears become even more useful.

  • They deflect sound towards your eardrum,

  • keep your glasses from falling straight off your head,

  • they help us to socialise, too.

  • The inner workings of the ear heighten the frequencies of the human voice -

  • so much so, that some scientists claim that listening to someone

  • is a more effective way to recognise and decode complex human emotions

  • than looking at their facial expressions.

  • But if all the complicated goings-on seem to happen inside the ear,

  • why do they stick out the sides of our heads

  • instead of sitting on top like a bunny,

  • or hanging low like an elephant?

  • It often comes down to whether an animal is predator or prey.

  • Predators, like foxes, have ears on the top of their heads

  • that they can point down at the ground when hunting.

  • This allows them to hear what poor wee animals are burrowing underground,

  • dig down to get them, snack away.

  • For animals that don't need to hunt,

  • ears on the tops of their heads allow for better movement.

  • A rabbit's ears can swivel 270 degrees

  • and allow them to hear for up to 3km -

  • meaning that they can be alert for predators while looking at dinner.

  • Our old pal the African elephant

  • has the biggest ears of any creature on Earth,

  • making up about a fifth of their surface area.

  • They use their giant lugs to fan themselves,

  • while the thin skin does a great job of dissipating heat.

  • Our external ears may not serve us so well on a hot day,

  • but they can be an indicator of our health,

  • and in the most peculiar way.

  • It comes in the form of a diagonal crease on your earlobe

  • called Frank's Sign.

  • Benign as it may look, the appearance of Frank's sign

  • has been linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

  • But scientists are stumped over why the crease appears

  • and how it correlates to these diseases,

  • just that it kind of... does.

  • Now, while we're on the subject of earlobes,

  • decorating them is nothing new, for humans at least.

  • The oldest mummy ever found in Europe - Otzi the Iceman - had pierced ears.

  • In modern times, because we're so damn edgy,

  • we've found about 14 different ways to pierce our ears,

  • each with their own name.

  • The most fun of the bunch might be tragus.

  • The word comes from the Ancient Greek tragos, meaning goat,

  • apparently because the tuft of hair some people have coming

  • from their ears looks like a goat's beard.

  • If the idea of piercings makes you wince,

  • cover your ears now and be glad you still have them,

  • because if you were a criminal in 16th Century England,

  • there was a chance your punishment would be cropping.

  • That's where your ears were cut off to show the rest of the town

  • who the delinquent was.

  • You were even prescribed a haircut, so you couldn't hide your shame.

  • For the uncropped, our ears never stop growing.

  • Maybe good news if you've got eensy-weensy ears,

  • but for the already large-lugged, they ain't going away

  • and gravity is only going to make them get floppier as you age.

  • Big or small, it's the shape and folds of your ear,

  • and how the brain processes sound waves,

  • that help us determine where a sound is coming from.

  • So next time you lose your phone under the sofa,

  • it's your twisty ear folds that are helping you to locate

  • that Coldplay ringtone.

  • Such sounds might be painful to hear -

  • physically even, if they're over 130 decibels -

  • but our strange wee ears give us lots to be thankful for.

  • They allow us to hear our loved ones, and best of all,

  • pretend not to hear them when you said you'd hang the washing out.

Let's hear it for ears!

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あなたの耳がユニークな理由(すごい!)|BBCアイデア (Why your ears are unique (and amazing!) | BBC Ideas)

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    Summer に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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