WTF, Ears?
April 19, 2010 1:03 PM   Subscribe

Sometimes one of my ears feels hotter than the other - both to myself and to someone else that touches it. Why?

The feeling is similar to the warmth of a surface injury healing or a scratch reacting to an allergen - both of which I associate with increased blood flow to the area. Why would my body decide to send extra blood to my left ear or right ear?

Other possibly important bits:
* Ambient temperature doesn't seem to matter, as this could happen to me inside, outside in the winter, or outside in the summer
* I don't believe it's a food allergy, because it just happened and I'm not eating/haven't eaten since last night
* I think the sensation lasts for 20 minutes, but that may be the time it takes me to ignore it and go about my business
* I can only remember it ever happening to one ear at a time
* The feeling seems to start where the big curvy part of my ear attaches to my head, on the back of my ear and near the top
* My ability hear doesn't change
* No physical injury to my ears - either old or recent
* It happens when I have not been talking on the phone, so that's not the cause
* I'm 26 and in otherwise good health

Please don't say it's because someone is talking about me, I'm aware.
posted by youngergirl44 to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Might be a mild infection of the ear canal (otitis externa), mine heat up whenever I get swimmer's ear and often the infection dies down on its own without developing further symptoms.
posted by jamaro at 1:31 PM on April 19, 2010

I get this, too! I'm a 24 year old female. I didn't think anyone else experienced it, until I saw an episode of The IT Crowd where Moss sprays water on his ear, and says it's because he has "hot ear." I don't know the cause, though. I'll be watching this thread...
posted by astrid at 1:34 PM on April 19, 2010

Is it the ear you sleep on or don't sleep on?
posted by 47triple2 at 1:44 PM on April 19, 2010

My husband gets this, always has (he's 31, healthy), and now our 3-year-old son gets it, too. He does not complain about it, it's just that I've noticed one ear gets red and hot to the touch now and then. So maybe "hot ear" is a heritable trait.
posted by palliser at 1:54 PM on April 19, 2010

Response by poster: It's the ear that I sleep on primarily (left), but I sometimes also sleep on my right or on my back. From what I can recall, it happens most often in the afternoon/evening, so I've never associated my sleep position with the phenomenon. Even if there is a correlation, why would it happen hours after I've woken up?
posted by youngergirl44 at 2:50 PM on April 19, 2010

I can't answer the why part, but FWIW-- I get this all the time, for as long as I can remember. It's usually when I'm excited or agitated or amped up about something, and it's always just the one ear-- you can even see a dramatic difference between the hot and not-hot one. Have you noticed any correlation with your emotions?
posted by mireille at 2:52 PM on April 19, 2010

I get this too. NO idea why. I don't think I can pinpoint a particular ear it happens with. I think both.
posted by morganannie at 3:28 PM on April 19, 2010

Response by poster: Correlation to emotions? Not really. Of the last three times it's happened, I'd say I was:

1. Happy (having a couple of beers and good conversation with friends)
2. Excited, but tired (at a baseball game)
3. Focused (at work, feeling productive)
posted by youngergirl44 at 3:38 PM on April 19, 2010

I get it, but I get unaccountable outer ear pain too. I kindof thought the hot ear might be severely delayed blushing.
posted by rahnefan at 3:44 PM on April 19, 2010

I got this a lot when I was younger but now that I think about it, it hasn't happened in years. I got a hot ear when I was tired and overheated. My face would flush too so maybe they were linked.
posted by hydrobatidae at 3:44 PM on April 19, 2010

Happy, excited, and productive-- those all seem about right to me, in my experience! It used to happen to me most when I was getting ready to go out at night (and since I went out every night, I was either tired or excited or some combination of the two). Now it happens when a project is going really well or when I exchange some witty bullshit with someone on FB. I've always found it amusing-- but then again, I don't show my ears in public often (I'm 33 but with my hair up I get carded for cigarettes-- I suspect that people can't believe that ears that size could possibly belong to a full-grown adult!)
posted by mireille at 3:49 PM on April 19, 2010

Response by poster: Perhaps it is emotional, although I've never considered myself as one that get flushed easily - from embarrassment or mental exertion. I am going for a physical in a couple of weeks, so I think I'll ask my GP what she thinks.

I love how everyone keeps calling it "hot ear".
posted by youngergirl44 at 3:54 PM on April 19, 2010

This happens to me too and I always put it down to the holes from my pierced ears (I don't wear earrings any more, but still have the holes) maybe getting soap or other gunk in them and getting irritated. Mine is much more localised to my earlobes, though.
posted by tracicle at 4:41 PM on April 19, 2010

Datapoint: My ears started turning red at weird moments after they got frostbitten. Is it possible one got frostbitten and one didn't?
posted by small_ruminant at 4:45 PM on April 19, 2010

It happens to me too (43, female). It's always my right ear. I sleep mostly on my left side but sleep on my right as well. It always happens in the evening. I've never figured out a cause because it's as random as you mentioned.

My husband gets it too.

It happens to my nose as well, although not at the same time (bright red, really warm, rest of face is its normal pasty hue).
posted by deborah at 5:00 PM on April 19, 2010

Happened to me frequently as a child, and my mother had some bullshit superstitious phrase she quoted ("someone must be talking about your investment decisions", or something like that) she always quoted. She knew because my hot ear would flush red, and she'd feel it.

It never ever amounted to anything. It rarely happens anymore.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:03 PM on April 19, 2010

It happens to me all of the time. It varies as to which ear it is and sometimes both ears are hot. I am normally a very warm person ie able to make snowballs with very dry snow just by melting it a bit with my bare hands. I have never worried about it, and occasionally it comes in handy walking outside in the winter. If I get a cast of the hot ear outside when it is really cold then it looks like my head is steaming.

As an aside sometimes I just have to exotherm. I don't know why this happens, but sometimes I just need to cool myself down or else I am uncomfortable. Thankfully this usually happens in the winter so I can just go stand outside for a bit without any coat on, but sometimes in the summer I have to take out ice packs from the freezer and hold them to my head and nexk just to bring my temperature down.
posted by koolkat at 3:24 AM on April 20, 2010

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