Oh, my ears are burning – that means someone is talking about me right?
We all know that phrase, but we also know that it isn’t true! Burning ears can be caused by a multitude of reasons. The inner ear or the outer part of the ear or both at the same time – we’re going to explore what the causes are and what we can do about them.
Time to relax and listen up. What does it mean when your ears burn?
Where Did That Saying Come From Anyway?
It’s probably a good starting point to talk about where the idiom of “someone is talking about you” came from in the first place.
It actually dates back to the Roman Empire. The Romans believed that if your left ear was burning, somebody was talking about you negatively. Whereas a burning right ear would suggest praise.
It’s thought that this came from the idea that embarrassment can lead to people talking about you critically, and embarrassment can cause your face (including your ears) to go red and mimic a burning sensation. Of course, the scientific knowledge of our society has now increased significantly, so it’s been many years since we thought there was any truth to this superstition!
Other such nonsense was the idea that burning ears suggested fury (literal smoke coming from the ears.) You may have seen this depicted in cartoons. Again, this idea was probably derived from anger sometimes causing your face to go red with increased blood flow and feeling warm to the touch.
Causes And Treatments Of A Burning Ear
Like we said, there are various reasons for a burning ear. Let’s break them down and explore them a bit further.
Probably the most obvious one and very common. If you’re exposed to the sun for a prolonged period without any sunscreen for protection or a hat – you’re likely to get burned.
Your ears may go red, flaky and feel extremely hot – in some extreme cases, you might have what appear to be small white bubbles of pus. These are blisters and you must be very careful with these.
The best treatment for sunburn is to firstly get out of the sun. It comes as no surprise that more sun to a sunburn will not help! You’ll want to take cold showers a few times a day to relieve the heat and apply a cream that contains aloe vera. You can probably get this at your local drugstore.
If you have blisters, it’s imperative that you do not pop them and simply let them heal along with the rest of your ear. To relieve pain, consider taking anti-inflammatory medications – this should speed up the healing process too. It’s also important to drink more water, as your body is dehydrating due to the burn.
Responses In Emotion
As we’ve said, you can mimic burning sensations through emotional responses. This could be due to anxiety, embarrassment, anger or sadness.
If this happens frequently, it is worth speaking with your physician or therapist. Medically speaking, your ear is fine.
Exercise can cause the blood to carry itself to the surface of the skin, which makes your face go red. This also applies to your ear. If you’re exercising or playing sports during cold temperatures, this can be worsened.
Don’t panic about this – it’s totally normal! Best solution is to dress accordingly for your activities and shower as soon as possible when you’re finished.
Drugs Or Alcohol
Different drugs and alcohol can cause different body responses including temperature changes. Your ears might feel as if they’re burning as a result.
If this is a frequent occurrence, you might need assistance with intoxicants. Speak with an expert, but again – your ears are medically speaking, perfectly okay.
Changes In Outdoor/Indoor Temperature
Vasoconstriction occurs when in extreme cold temperatures. Effectively, the blood flow is being restricted and your body is attempting to adjust and regulate itself. You may notice that your ears are burning along with your nose and other parts of your face.
Best way to treat this is to simply escape the cold as soon as possible. If you’re taking part in snowboarding or skiing, dress appropriately to try and avoid any ear discomfort.
An ear infection is caused when one or both of your eustachian tubes (small tubes in the ear) become blocked. This could be due to climate, temperature, allergies or general illness.
The best treatment is to speak with your doctor who will likely advise to take antibiotics, pain medication and ear drops.
Hormonal shifts can happen. Puberty can often account for a rush of blood which can mimic a burning of the ear, so too can menopause (hot flush/flash.) This is nothing to worry about and is entirely natural.
Hormonal changes can also be caused by treatment for cancer (chemotherapy.) If you’re worried about this reaction, speak with your medical advisor.
Not common but this is a condition that causes burning to the ear which sometimes is followed by headaches or migraines. It is usually brought on from completely normal activities or stressful situations.
It’s extremely difficult to treat. It is worth speaking to your doctor if your ear is burning randomly from normal activities or is followed with head pains.
One more rare and uncommon problem. This condition can be a result of a change in temperature or exercise. It causes redness, stiffness and pain. Sometimes it can be brought on from foods or drinks.
It is another condition that is extremely difficult to treat and diagnose. Again, speak with your doctor if you think this is your condition. Treat pain in the meantime with over the counter medications.
Burning ears can be really uncomfortable and painful. There are so many causes that it may be difficult to assess specifically what is causing it (unless it’s obvious such as sunburn.)
The best thing you can do is speak with your doctor if you’re worried!