ear from the side

Do our ears continue to grow as we age?

When we’re younger, we grow at an exponential rate. For example, by the time most children are two-years old, their heads have grown to a point that’s 90% of their adult size. That’s a lot of growing, but around the time we reach the age of 20, we stop. The growth plates between our bones close, and for the most part, our skeletons are fully formed.

But, you may have heard or noticed that your appendages with soft tissue and cartilage—like your ears and nose—seem to never stop growing. Why? Is there any truth to this suggestion, or is the growth you’re seeing just an optical illusion? In order to get to the bottom of this, one must understand the operative qualities of cartilage and its basic yet important role in the human anatomy.

Cartilage is a feature in the human body that many people have heard about but very few understand. For the most part, cartilage is a very versatile tissue that can be found all over the body: between the bones and vertebrae, at the ends of ribs, and even in the bronchial tubes. The ears and nose, however, are almost totally made up of cartilage.

Our ears come in many shapes and sizes, but their functions are the same despite this difference. The pinna—which is the outer ear—is the part that is made up of cartilage, and no matter what your ear looks like, it gathers sounds from your environment and circulates them to your ear canal. This makes hearing easier and the sounds clearer. But do our ears grow as time moves on?

The cartilage in our ears does not grow but as time passes, it does change. Over the course of our life, we experience weight changes, injuries, and other body-altering events that weaken connective tissues and cartilage. These events lead to changes that come in the form of sagging skin and softer cartilage, leading to the appearance of larger ears and noses in older men and women.

There are other cases where the rest of your face changes in a way that accentuates areas like your ears or nose. For example, a loosened jawline might draw attention to your earlobes in a way that makes them look longer than normal. 

These changes—much like any other changes associated with the word sagging—are unenviable yet inevitable. There are very few ways to prevent these changes, but if you do not like the way your ears look, consult your plastic surgeon to determine an empowering yet healthy option forward.

In the end, the myth that our ears grow as we age is exactly that: a myth; and while change is not growth, you can still say it is. As we get older, we get wiser. Take the change as a sign of growth in knowledge and in wisdom and as a physical representation of the lessons you have learned all along the way. 

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