And his glasses.
When I was a kid, my parents would take me to visit my great grandfather on my dad’s side. He was in his late 80s, bespectacled, white hair on the sides, on his mustache and he had nothing on top. He would show me these cool tricks, like how to multiply numbers with your knuckles. He was pretty slick for an old man and I liked what he had to show me.
One of the tricks he showed me was how to move your ears. I was fascinated that he had figured out how to do that. I didn’t see him very often, but still remembered that trick. I think he passed away before I could ever show him that I could move my ears, too.
So I practiced. I tried in vain many times to get them to move. I would sort of feel around for the muscles I needed to move them. I usually wound up wiggling my eyebrows, or my scalp. But then one day, I found them, two little muscles that moved my ears. I was so glad to find them.
I practiced moving my ears often. At night, I’d wiggle them to the rhythm of the music I played as I went to sleep. I even got to the point where I was wiggling my eyebrows and my ears to the music, alternating between them.
As I grew older, I figured out that I could use my ears to pull up my glasses if they slid down my nose. I could move my ears in two directions, too. I could pull my ears back from the front, or make them go up and down. I began to take notice that I was building some strength in those muscles, too. I developed a very conscious command of them.
But something else happened as I grew from adolescence to adulthood. I developed an unconscious habit of moving my ears. Long ago, don’t ask me why, but I had wanted to be a sheet metal worker. I can recall standing in a classroom at the union hall for my apprenticeship training. Someone was calling my name, but he was calling another person named Scott, not me. And he asked me, “Are you Scott?”
“Yes, I am. How did you know?”
“Your ears moved when I called your name. But you’re not the Scott I’m looking for. He’s over there.” And then he left.
As a young adult, I took an interest in billiards and had a playing partner. I noticed that when I was setting my posture for my shot on the table, my ears would rise as I was aiming. My glasses moved so much that after a time, I decided to doff my glasses as a habit when I played.
Even to this day, when I play table tennis, I remove my glasses because my ears move my glasses so much. My ears would move my glasses during play, and after the rally was over, I’d put my glasses back with my hands. That was such a distraction that I decided to just remove them so that I could enjoy the game. I even found that I played much better without my glasses.
I still move my ears for babies, toddlers, and kids. I still sometimes use my ears to adjust my glasses when I am reading or writing, or if I’ve got my hands full and need to adjust. Even as I write this article, my ears are moving. My left ear moves more than my right ear because I’m wearing a hearing aid in my right ear. It seems that my hearing aid tends to restrain the movement of my right ear.
While sharing this skill with another friend, I learned that if you want to move your ears, you must learn to do so at an early age. The ear muscles tend to atrophy after age 13 and after that, it’s too late. So if you want to learn how to move your ears, start early.
Learning how to move my ears for the novelty was cool, and the process of learning this skill, as pointless as it might seem, was instructive for me. I developed a sort of discernment for the little muscles in my body, a greater awareness of how my body works. I became aware of the subtle ways my body works in ways that I might not have if I was not inspired by my great grandfather to move my ears.