Name: Tage S.
I was wondering if the human hearing perception has
undergone any major changes in terms of evolution - and, is it likely to
change in the future? And what may the outcome of this evolution be?
Right now places like the Center for Comparative and Evolutionary Biology of
Hearing and studying the exact question you asked. Little is known at this
point, but theories are being proposed about the development of sensory
hairs within the ears, along with those who look at the bone structure.
While new findings come up, the evolutionary theory still has many wholes,
one of the problems being that for a human to evolve from other mammals,
most other animals have much better hearing perception than humans. You
would think that evolution would work by natural selection...choosing the
best, deleting the worst. This is backwards for the theory of human
evolution. As for the future, the most obvious outcome right now is not in
the biological development, but in our growing ability to provide technology
that enhances hearing. Within 5 years we have gone from huge hearing aids to
almost undetectable ones to implants.
I do not believe that the human evolutionary record is complete enough to determine this.
Man has not been around long enough for this evolutionary change to be detected in the
fossil record. And, there aren't enough rocks younger than 2,000,000 years to display
this record. However, there is logical conjecture that early man had larger outer ears
due to a survival need, compared to modern man. Man has chosen to make the world a
noisy place. In my opinion, future man will have less sensitive hearing for two reasons:
a decreased survival need for hearing, and decreased sensitivity due to noise exposure.
It is also possible that evolution may enable the tragus (the flap at the entrance of the
ear canal) to close at will to keep noise out, without the need to use fingers.
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Update: June 2012