Yes, Ears Get Bigger As We Get Older
Cartoonists sometimes exaggerate the caracteriture of elderly people by drawing them with large ears. And you may have noticed in real life that some older people have large ears.
Do ears really get bigger as we age?
Some think that it is only an illusion as the body decrease slightly in height due to compression of the spine and its less upright posture.
However, it is not a myth. Sceintific inquires have determined that the ears actually do get bigger as we age -- not the thickness necessarily, but its vertical length, its elongation, and its circumference.
Why Do Ears Get Bigger As We Age?
The reason is due to gravity and changes of collagen with age. Like perhaps other parts of our skin, we loose elastisicity due to degradation and lost of collagen. And with gravity constantly pulling on our ears, they can get elongated.
Article on DoctorOz.com writes that ears continue to grow as we age -- as well as our noses. That is because cartilage continues to grow until the end of life.
There is an article on BMJ titled "Why do old men have big ears?" (December 23, 1995)
But it is not just men that have ears that increases in size with age, it happens for women as well -- especially if they wear heavy earrings.
Collagen is found in our skin and connective tissues and is the most abundant protein in mammals. As we age, our ability to produce collagen decreases and we lose collagen. And that is why our skin sags and wrinkles.
By the way, having enough vitamin C from foods helps the body produce collagen.
Rate of Increase of Ears with Age
How much bigger do ears get as we age? Of course that depends on the particular individual. Some ears get much bigger while other increases are hardly noticeable at all.
But it is quite consistent that a person's ear will be larger in their senior years than when they were young adults.
In Japan, Dr Yashhiro Asai, found a correlation between ear length with age after studying 400 people over the age of 20.
After studying 206 person with an mean age of 53, Dr Heathcote concluded that ears gets bigger by 0.22 mm a year on average. [reference]
Another study found on PubMed titled "Ear size as a predictor of chronological age" determined that ear circumference increases 0.51 mm per year (on average). It determined that the linear regression equation between ear and age to be ...
Ear circumference in millimeters = 88.1 + (0.51 x age)
This was calculated based on 100 young individuals compared to older individuals. Both ears and noses were measured, but a greater correlation with age was found from the size of the ears, rather than the size of the nose.
Understand that the change is not great. In fact, at rate of less than a millimeter a year, the change is not noticeable by eye from year to year. But after several decades, the change may become measurable.
According to the equation, after 20 years, the ears circumference may increase by a centimeter.