Ear Pulling, what does it Mean? For a long time, ear pulling has been a common complaint heard in a pediatricianâ€™s office. Parents are most often concerned with the possibility of an ear infection, however, infections are quite uncommon if the only symptom is ear pulling. Ear pulling is such a common concern it has been studied on several occasions and it is often not associated with ear infections. Ear pulling is a non-specific symptom because several nerves to our face, teeth, sinus, and head all travel near and through the ear. The discomfort or sensations felt in our ear can often be coming from one of these other areas in the body. Often times a sinus issue or a tooth issue is the most common culprit for persistent ear pain and irritation. Sensations from multiple areas of the face and sinus can often lead to ear pulling in children. With an infant, ear pulling can commonly mean that he or she has found their ear, much like they find their feet or thumb; it can also be a sign that teeth are starting to erupt or possibly they have something like a bead in their ear, placed by a loving sibling. Ear pulling in a toddler can be a sign of cavities; it can also be a sign of teeth grinding at night. Ear pulling associated with pain and fever in a toddler increases the likelihood of infection of the ear, but also the sinus or the teeth. Infants who have fevers, recent upper respiratory infections, and fussiness also have a higher likelihood of an ear infection leading to the ear pulling. The next time you notice that your child is pulling on their ears, remember if there are fevers, recent viral infection, and pain, this may represent an ear infection. If you only notice the ear pulling it may be something else, or the fact that your little one has found their ears. Please remember, any concerns that you have can always be investigated by your pediatrician.
Nicholas Lewis, MD