We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.

EPICTETUS (ad 55-135) 


Smallest Bones

The human ear contains 15,500 hairs and the smallest muscles and smallest bones in the human body.

The smallest bone is the stirrup bone, and the smallest muscles are the stapedius and the tensor tympani.

The left ear is more responsive to whispered words than the right, supposedly because the left ear is controlled by the right side of the brain, the so-called emotional side, and triggers better responses from prospective lovers.
In 1993, a study by four GPs on 206 patients of various ages measured the length of their left ears. The data were then analysed by computer to examine the relationship between length of ear and the patient's age. The study found that as we get older our ears grow, on average, by 0.22 millimetres a year.

Giraffes can lick their own ears.

Galileo described Saturn as a planet with ‘ears’.

Animal Ears

You can tell the age of cod (and many other fish) by counting the annual growth rings in its otoliths - the bones in its ear. Sadly, to do this you have to kill the cod first, and bake the otoliths. As you can then eat the cod, there are compensations - though not for the cod.
Elephants have the biggest ears of any animal, although not relative to their size - that honour goes to Townsend's Big-Eared Bat. Elephants have extremely good hearing and communicate over very long distances using infrasound at frequencies too low for human beings to hear.

Their earflaps are used less for hearing than for signalling and regulating their temperature. By flapping their ears, elephants can reduce the temperature of the blood in them as much as 10ºF: this then circulates around their body.

They also flap their ears to display aggression and perhaps to waft their scent - created in a gland behind the ear in the mating season.

Cockroach’s ears are in their knee joints.

J. M. BARRIE (1860-1937)

It is all very well to be able to write books, but can you waggle your ears?

Ear Spoons

Ear spoons are tiny scoops used to clean out ears. These days you're most likely to find one in a doctor's surgery, where it is usually called a ‘cerumen spoon’ or ‘ear curette’. Ear spoons, or ear-picks, come in many shapes and sizes, from the ornamental ivory type to the LED-fitted version advertised as useful ‘for all the family’.
Combination toothpicks cum ear spoons were common in the 18th century, and were usually made of some sort of precious or semiprecious metal - gold, silver, bronze, or copper. Occasionally they were also made from horn or whalebone. They ranged from very plain and functional objects to highly decorative pieces of jewellery worn on a chain around the neck.
Cotton-buds, or Q-tips, were originally called ‘Baby Gays’ and were invented by Leo Gerstenzang when he saw his wife using toothpicks with cotton wads to clean their son’s ears. Today, Unilever produces 25.5 billion Q-tips a year. Despite their popularity the NHS doesn’t advise using cotton buds to deal with earwax as it can push the wax further down the ear canal.

The ancient Chinese believed the thicker your earlobe, the wealthier you would be.

Earwax and Eardrums

In Japan, earwax picking is seen as a fetish; the art is called mimikaki, and young lovers can be seen with their head on the thighs of their significant other who is picking out the wax with an ear spoon. People may say you shouldn't do it, but can it be coincidence that your little finger fits precisely into your ear-hole?
J. B. S. Haldane (1892-1964) suffered perforated eardrums from his experiments into the physiology of diving, but noted that 'the drum generally heals up; and if a hole remains in it, although one is somewhat deaf, one can blow tobacco smoke out of the ear in question, which is a social accomplishment'.

VICTOR HUGO (1802-85)

What matters deafness of the ears when the mind hears? The one true deafness, the incurable deafness, is that of the mind.

Ötzi, the 5,300-year-old iceman found mummified in an Alpine glacier in 1991, had both ears pierced.

Manjit Singh pulled along a 7.5-ton passenger airliner for 13ft, using only his ears.

William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh and Charles I all had pierced ears.