Asked by: Walt Haddock, California, US
Yes. The outer part of your ear, the pinna, is shaped to amplify sounds and locate their source. Try listening to a steady sound while moving your head or bending your ears. The changes you notice are what the brain uses to determine location, and the pinna’s shape exaggerates these variations. Everyone’s ears are different, so we learn this skill from infancy. In experiments, people wearing false ears have trouble localising sounds for up to six weeks but they don’t lose the ability to hear without them. So this is more like learning a new language than adapting to a new sense.
Robert is a science writer and visiting professor of science at Aston University.