external ears' influence on hearing

Charles V. Phelps phelps at calvin.usc.edu
Thu Mar 9 14:36:43 EST 1995

I have never studied audiology, so please forgive me if this is a
basic question.  This is something I have wondered about for a
long time.

I have had several hearing tests in the course of my life, and they
were all done entirely with earphones.

If I push my ears forward, or cup my hands around my ears, I notice
a big difference in my hearing acuity.  Now, ears come in all
different sizes and shapes.  Some people have small ears that
are flat against the side of the head, while others have
large ears that stick out like car doors that are open.
Wouldn't this variation play a large role in how well someone hears? I
would think that it would also play a role in how well one could
distinguish a significant sound (like someone talking) from background

The ear size/shape factor would not be picked up in tests that
use earphones.  I can see why such tests are done, but is
there any reason they are not supplemented with other tests, where
the source of the sound is some distance away, to see how well the
subject hears in a "real-world" situation?

Charles Phelps
Science & Engineering Library
University of Southern California
phelps at calvin.usc.edu

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