The human body is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Despite the fact that each of us starts out with two eyes, one nose, and a set of diverse organs, there are certain little quirks in each of us that are a reminder of the uniqueness in our sameness. For a great example of that, look no further than your ears.
Of course, you can’t look at your ears directly, but the next time you happen to be in front of a mirror, why not take a closer look at the organs that allow you to connect with the world with sound, helping you hear ambulance sirens or the latest music album in equal measure?
For the most part, ears are nothing to write home about, but there are a tiny proportion of the population who have tiny holes in their ears in a kind of odd place, near where your ear connects with the rest of your head. People with these holes have not had an unfortunate mishap while piercing their ears; no, they’re born with that little hole, and it’s pretty interesting once you find out why.
This tiny hole is called a preauricular sinus, and if you’re living in the United Kingdom or the United States, there’s less than a one percent chance you’ve got one. Usually appearing on one ear but also capable of appearing on both sides, this tiny hole is an inherited feature, which appears while a fetus is in the early stages of its development.
A study published in the US National Library of Medicine back in 1864 by a scientist known as Van Heusinger was the very first reported occurrence of the preauricular sinus, but I’d imagine they were around for hundreds (if not thousands) of years before that.
Preauricular Sinus. A blessing or a curse? I’m afraid I have this. 🙁 pic.twitter.com/00HSr1uE3R
— Kiara Sapinoso (@kiarasapinoso) 31 December 2013
So why exactly do we have this little ear hole? It’s not definitively known, but the evolutionary scientist Neil Shubin thinks that the preauricular sinus is actually a leftover from the days of humankind past, saying that they could be a “evolutionary remnant of fish gills”. Food for thought, isn’t it?
For those of you with one of these fascinating holes, don’t freak out; they’re completely harmless unless they get infected, and even then, can be adequately dealt with during surgery. Thanks to their close proximity to the facial nerve (which controls the muscles responsible for your smiles and frowns), this surgery is usually carried out by a trained, experienced surgeon.
So there you have it! Some people are tall, some people have curly hair instead of straight, but if you’re one of the lucky few in the world to have a preauricular sinus, then don’t worry! It’s just a reminder that you’re a wonderful and unique human being. Whatever you do, though, please do not treat your preauricular sinus as a piercing, and try to slip an earring through there. That would be bad.