By Tara Guastella
All ears are the same, right? Wrong.
Ears are actually unique to each and every person, so much so that they are comparable in uniqueness to the fingerprint. Research has even suggested that ears may be a more effective identification tool than a fingerprint through the use of a new “image ray transform” technology. This technology shines beams of light on the tubular features of the outer ear, creating an image from the way light reflects off the ear’s curves.
What makes the ear so unique? One’s ears are fully formed at birth and age gracefully over time, making them an ideal body part to confirm identity. Fingerprints can change due to the development of calluses from repeated labor which can make them less reliable.
In almost every crime scene TV drama, you’re likely to see characters dusting for fingerprints. When we will see them dusting for earprints? Well, I guess it’s a lot less likely that your average criminal is pressing an ear against an object while committing a crime. Yet in 1998, the first murder conviction on the basis of ear identification occurred in England. The convicted suspect pressed his ear up against a newly washed window in the house (where the murder took place) to listen for movement.
Airports also regularly use biometric facial recognition programs in their security programs. The addition of earprints to this type of security could also prove a valuable way to identify travelers as well as any potential threats.
Earprints come with limitations when it comes to identification, however. Ears can be altered in shape through plastic surgery or from an accident. Wearing earrings or eyeglasses or having hair pushed behind the ear can also alter the shape of an earprint.
While an earprint will likely will not substitute the fingerprint in terms of identification capability, it could be a valuable addition for solving mysteries, saving lives, and likely many other uses.