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What is the Antihelix?

By Sandi Johnson
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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On the human ear, there are several curved ridges of cartilage meant to protect the ear canal and channel sound waves into the eardrum. The centermost cartilage, a tough curved ridge inside the pinna, carries the name antihelix or anthelix, depending on the literature referenced. Following along the ear lobe, up to the top of the ear known as the helix, the antihelix begins just at the top of the ear lobe and travels parallel to the helix. In terms of placement, it forms a "C" around the concha, the area of leading into the ear canal.

As part of the auditory system, the antihelix helps channel sound into the eardrum while acting as a barrier against possible injury. Layers and folds of cartilage throughout the ear structure serve as padding to prevent blunt trauma to the sensitive membranes of the inner ear. Depending on individual physiology, the antihelix may be more prominent along the outer edge of the ear than near the fossa triangularis, where the top of the ear reattaches to the head. The exact structure does not necessarily affect the function of the auditory system.

During the 1980s, jewelry pieces known as ear clips or ear bands wrapped around both the helix and the antihelix. Such jewelry gave individuals the opportunity to express their unique tastes and interests. Numerous musicians, celebrities, and both British and America youths opted for ear bands to accessorize multiple lobe piercings on a single ear. The practice of wearing ear clips or ear bands around the helix and antihelix eventually evolved to modern cartilage piercings.

Piercing the antihelix is a popular practice among those interested in body modifications. Such piercings first appeared in California, reportedly through the work of Eric Dakota. The story goes that these piercings took on their name from a shortened version of Mr. Dakota's first and last names. Known as rook piercings, these body modifications generally involve a ring or curved barbell inserted through the antihelix. Typically, the piercing sits closes to the fossa triangularis, just above the tragus.

Rook piercings, according to those who have undergone the procedure, require serious consideration. Reportedly, antihelix pain during the piercing process is more pronounced than other body piercings. Additionally, piercings through this part of the ear take more consideration and care after the procedure. Healing time lasts from two months to a full year, depending on the individual. Piercers advise recipients against sleeping on a pierced antihelix during the healing process.

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