Do our ears and noses continue to grow forever?

You’ve probably heard at some point in your life—from a well-meaning trivia fan or from a malicious self-esteem hunter—that our ears and noses are the only two body parts that never stop growing.

To be honest, it seems like it’s true, right? If you imagine an old person, maybe the old man Upwards – they are certainly noticeable facial appendages. But is that just confirmation bias? Are we all doomed to eventually be absorbed through our noses and ears?

Well, the truth depends on what you define as ‘growing’.

Our ears get bigger as we get older

Let’s be honest: You’ve probably looked at an older person and thought, “Well, that’s certainly true looks like as if your ears and nose keep growing forever.” And before any oldies come at us, it’s actually backed up by the data: a 1995 study – admirably titled “Why Do Old Men Have Big Ears?” – found that after the age of 30, our ears grow about 0.22 millimeters (0.009 inches) per year.

Another study, this one from 1997 (apparently the 1990s were a slow decade in science) found the same thing: you can estimate someone’s age fairly accurately by measuring their ear circumference. The figures were also very similar, with the later analysis showing that the average annual ear growth was 1.96 mm (0.077 in).

To sum it all up, a 1999 study from Italy, which used electromagnetic digitizers to map facial features of a few hundred people of different ages, confirmed what we all suspected: the larger the ears, the older the wearer.

Oh – and despite what they assumed in ’95, that goes for the ladies too. Sorry, Grammie.

This also applies to our noses

Finding comparable data on nose length across the lifespan is a little more difficult – but certainly not impossible. Here too, the numbers seem to confirm the general idea that our middle appendage continues to grow throughout life: a 2002 study, which used data from 2,500 people from Central Europe between the ages of zero and 97, even managed to to create growth charts that show exactly where you fall on the nasal distribution for your age.

It’s not just the nose length and height that increases (and yes, those are different sizes for a nose). A 2011 study by researchers at the University of Milan found that the total surface area of ​​our noses also increases throughout our lives – by the time we are 65-80 years old, they concluded, there is about 15 percent more nose on them our face than when we are 18-30.

However…

So, you may be thinking, it seems pretty dry: our noses and ears Doing increasing in size with age; we have the data to prove it. But everything is not exactly as it seems.

What do we mean? Well, the key is in the sneaky wording: our ears and noses Doing get bigger as we get older…but the ask is whether they continue to grow. And the answer to that is (probably) no.

You see, by the age of about 20 we’re about as big as we can get, skeletally speaking. Our bones don’t tend to grow past this point – even those in our ears and noses (shout out to our pelvis and skulls, which are actually Doing continues to grow a little, but in such a small amount that it is hardly worth mentioning.)

However, our muscles, skin and cartilage are a different story. They continue to change throughout our lives – they become worn down by time, stretched by weight gain or loss, thinned out by pregnancy hormones, or even just affected by all the random injuries we sustain over the years.

“So while many complain that their noses have gotten bigger with age, this is not the case,” Ali Sajjadian, a triple board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in rhinoplasties — that is, nose jobs — explained in a 2022 blog post.

“The skin and structures of the nose lose strength with age, resulting in a nose that extends and droops,” he wrote. “The glands in the skin of the nose, especially at the tip, can enlarge, making the nose look wider and heavier. Although there is debate about whether the cartilage itself grows, it can look like this.”

The same goes for our ears. As the cartilage that makes up much of the structure of the external organ breaks down, it can no longer provide our skin with the support it once did. It may seem like our ears continue to grow, but what’s actually happening is more of a change in shape than in size.

Combine that with other age-related changes in facial structure – a looser jawline, for example, or thinner lips – and it all creates a distinct impression of expanding facial features.

Can I prevent my ears and nose from getting bigger?

So maybe knowing that this ear and nose non-growth is technically happening to all of us isn’t so comforting to you. Maybe you want to avoid looking like Dumbo when you’re 94. Is there anything you can do to stop the slow passage of time?

Unfortunately, short of undergoing cosmetic surgery, the answer is currently “no, not really.” No matter how depressing your droopy nose and ears, there is no escaping the fundamental forces of nature.

Oh – we don’t mean that figuratively, by the way. You see, one of the biggest culprits in this orinological tragedy? Gravity.

“Gravity will have the same effect on the nose as it does on the facial skin around the eyes, cheeks and jowls,” Sajjadian wrote. So “the illusion of a more prominent nose is due to the dependence of time.”

The same force is also not good for our ears – especially if we are used to wearing heavy earrings. So put away the hoops for now – and if all else fails, be happy: if you have big ears, people are more likely to think you look smart and friendly.

And if you have a big nose… well, there’s good news there too.

All “explainer” articles are confirmed by fact checkers to be correct at the time of publication. Text, images and links can be edited, deleted or added at a later time to keep the information current.

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