Those Things on the Sides of Our Head

Gael Hannan
October 9, 2022

I’m an admirer of human head decorations – head bling of all types.

Purple hair, funky eyeglasses and jewellery – whether attached to the head with magnets, clips or piercings. I admire both the artistry and the artistic spirit of the wearers. And I adore earrings; my earlobes are never naked!

Speaking of those things on the sides of our head: each one is called a pinna and two of them are called pinnae (pronounced pin-ee) or pinnas. They make me laugh. If I stare at one for any length of time, it starts to look ridiculous…like a poor attempt at pie pastry.

But those maze-like ridges of our outer ears have the important role of gathering airwaves and sending them down into our hearing system where they eventually morph into sound that we understand.

Or don’t understand, if you have hearing loss. I tell you, what my hearing system does to those airwaves is criminal! It garbles them, mutes them, and sometimes simply refuses to process them at all! Thank heavens for my hearing devices that work hard to counteract this nasty behaviour.

But I can say something nice about my pinnae: they are nicely shaped and don’t stick out. They are also superb supports for my glasses, although I don’t think that evolution or a divine creator had that in mind when forming the lovely pinna. I have no idea why the lobe exists, except to bring the pinna to lovely, curvy close at the bottom. And to have a hole poked through it for earrings.

My right pinna sports a more-or-less permanent earring – a silver cuff attached to a safety chain for my cochlear implant sound processor; if it falls off due to some jolt, it dangles safely from my silver cuff and chain. It’s beautiful.

So even though pinnae make chuckle to look at, I respect them. I even wrote a bad poem about them.


Those Things on the Sides of Our Head


They’re funny looking, those things on the side of our head.
Whether standing at attention, right-angled to the skull,
Or lying flat on their backs, like a terrified cat
These cartilage slabs are strangely designed 
Created, as an afterthought,

From leftover body bits.

“Hmm, the side of the head is a boring stretch of nothing,”

  thought the committee in charge of making human beings.

“Something’s needed around where that ear-hole goes in.’

“Let’s take that eleventh toe, second chin and extra elbow skin 
 And build something funky and different, a fabulous creation.

Aha, eureka! This is where the sound will go in

Rather than through the nose, like we planned!”

And that’s how the pinnae became part of the head!

As gatekeepers – 

To collect and transform sound waves in their magician’s hat, 

To be pulled out the other end, as meaningful words and sounds.

As a blank canvas –

For decorative jewels and piercing bits of metal

And a holder for the hooks of eyeglasses.

And for those of us who have hearing loss? 

Our hard-working pinnae remain the sound collectors,
Not at fault if airwaves become warped, along the hearing path.

But now they are helped by hearing aids or cochlear implants – 
New jewelry giving new beauty

To those things on the side of our head.

(It’s not quite what you’d expect from surplus toe-and-elbow bits.)




  1. Q: “What’s a pinna for?”
    A: “An operetta by Gilbert & Sullivan.”

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