Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Hearing Evolution
Name: Tage S.
Status: student
Age: 20s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 12/16/2004


Question:
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?


Replies:
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.

Grace Fields


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.

Tom Esposito



Click here to return to the General Topics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory