Better to hear you with...

Is it my imagination or are my ears growing larger?

Fresh fruit. (photo credit: Wikimedia commons/ Mervat Salman)
Fresh fruit.
(photo credit: Wikimedia commons/ Mervat Salman)
I am 90 years old. Unless my eyesight is to blame, it seems to me that my ears are larger than they ever were, especially the earlobes. Does it have something to do with my advanced age, or the fact that I pull on my earlobes to adjust clip-on earrings and ear-plugs? What do your experts have to say about this, and can anything be done about it now? – Z.P., Ganei Tikva
Dr. Ronen Perez, director of the otology unit of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, answers: Yes, you are right. As we get older, our ears seem to be larger. Throughout the years, this has been studied by several researchers, and a number of theories have been suggested.
The leading and most logical theory is that because the skin loses its elasticity and strength with increasing age, the ears sag due to gravitation, in a similar way to other body parts. The sagging or drooping lengthens the ears and makes them appear larger. The drooping may be somewhat enhanced by heavy earrings. Theoretically this can be corrected with plastic surgery.
Prof. Mark Clarfield, a veteran gerontologist at Soroka University Medical Center and Ben-Gurion University, adds: Indeed, ears do grow larger with age. A very interesting study in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) in 1993 established this fact. A British general practitioner measured the ears of a randomly selected group of 206 patients who were 30 years and older, and found that ear size grew by an average of 0.22 millimeters annually, or a centimeter over five decades.
Other studies found that women’s ears are smaller than men’s, but that the ears of both of them grew in size as time passed. Among the reasons given is that the ear’s skin and cartilage sag as people get older.
Wearing heavy earrings can also cause them to get larger. Some researchers claim cartilage grows over the years, but others argue that the cartilage in the ears is only being replaced and does not grow larger.
In my opinion, ears seem bigger as one gets older because of the relative shrinkage of some of the facial/skull tissues, which makes the growing ears look even bigger than they are. In the end, it is all a part of normal aging and something to borne with a bit of fortitude, if not a sense of humor....
Does one need to wash fresh fruit and vegetables in dishwashing detergent and water to avoid insecticides and dirt, or only in water? – N.S., Arad
The Health Ministry comments: It is recommended that fresh fruits and vegetables be cleaned in the following way: First, wash the produce carefully in running water to remove bits of dirt. Then dip it in water with liquid detergent and brush it to remove bacteria and some pesticide residues. Finally, wash it well in tap water and dry it by exposure to the air or using a clean paper towel.
I am a 23-year-old man and healthy, but in the last two years, my maternal aunt, fraternal uncle and a grandmother have developed various cancers, including lung, colon and esophageal tumors. I worry that my family has a genetic tendency for this, and it has made me rather anxious. Are there any lifestyle changes I and other relatives can make to reduce the risk of cancer? – P.N., Jerusalem
Natali Shemesh, a clinical dietitian at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center’s integrated center for diagnosis and prevention of cancer, replies: Many cancers have no genetic basis, while others – like some breast cancers – do.
Screening is recommended. Colon cancer, for example, can be prevented by undergoing colonoscopies after the age of 50.
The lifestyle changes you can adopt to reduce the risk of cancers include keeping your weight normal and minimizing your intake of sugar and unhealthy fat (trans-fat). This alone can reduce the risk of colon, breast, uterine, esophageal and pancreatic cancers in your family.
Physical activity on a regular basis cuts the danger of colon, prostate, uterine and breast cancer.
Eating vegetables of five different colors, which represent phytochemicals, minimizes the risk of cancers of various kinds. For example, regularly eating tomatoes – which contain lycopene – can reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Barbecuing meat directly on a fire should be avoided, because high temperatures can cause the formation of amines that are carcinogenic.
Eating garlic and onion may reduce the risk of these carcinogenic substances. But in general, other cooking methods such as steaming, baking and stir-frying are preferable.
Reduce your consumption of red and processed meats; prefer chicken and fish to red meat whenever possible. Reduce your drinking of alcohol, drink green tea, and add turmeric (kurkum in Hebrew) to foods. Cutting your consumption of salt in processed and canned foods is also recommended, as is adding little or no salt to the unprocessed foods you cook and eat; instead, herbs and spices are recommended for giving food more taste.
Consult your family doctor on whether you suffer from a lack of vitamin D and ask if you need to take drops of the vitamin regularly, as having enough of the vitamin is believed to cut the risk of getting various types of cancers.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to [email protected], giving your initials, age and place of residence.