As far as I can tell, there is no scientific evidence that people with big ears hear better than people with small ears. People with big ears do hear a lot of things that people with small ears don't—insults, mostly. A young Clark Gable was rejected for movie roles because of his large ears; producers told him he resembled "an ape." In a now-classic line, Howard Hughes said Gable's ears made him "look like a taxi cab with both doors open."
But the next time you go outside—perhaps wandering the woods in search of a Maltese falcon?—do this: Make your ears bigger. Just cup one hand behind each ear and the bend the ears forward. Then listen.
You'll be stunned by how much more you hear, both in volume and range of tones. Try it anywhere, from a city street (even cars sound different!) to a school playground. Try it in front of your computer as you read this. To enrich the experience (and bask in one of the great sounds of spring), go to http://www.wildmusic.org/animals/thrush and click on the song of any of the four thrushes. Then make your ears bigger. Warning: As the Edge (or was it Jimmy Page?) said in the rock-guitarist documentary we watched the other night, "It might get loud."
This simple birdwatcher's trick—which was was passed on to Pamelia and me by naturalist Billy Helprin of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust—is still most enjoyable when used in a natural setting. I tried it this week while listening for kingfishers, finches and other birds that were chatting up the Babson Creek Preserve on Mount Desert Island. Let me know if the trick works for you, and if you've heard any interesting wildlife sounds lately.
Cool News of the Week
Scientists have discovered that the smell of fresh-cut grass can reduce stress and improve memory....A nine-year-old boy out with his dog and his paleoanthropologist dad in South Africa stumbled onto the bones of an almost two-million-year-old boy from a newly discovered species of hominid—that is, a distant relative of ours.... For the first time in more than 100 years, a pair of endangered California condors successfully hatched a chick in their onetime domain, Pinnacles National Monument in central California.
And in Honor of Ears and the Baseball Season...
I have to share a card of the player with the greatest set of ears in the history of the national pastime, lefthanded pitcher Don Mossi: