Pulling on Ears is Super-Fun According to Kids

Every parent (including myself) has suspected that their child has an ear infection when in fact they don’t. How does such deception occur?  According to my two-year old source, it is very cool to play with your ears. This 21 month-old patient I saw in the ER admitted to me that she discovered that when she puts her fingers in her ears it sounds really cool.  And the sound is even more interesting when she chews!  Thanks to this exceptionally verbal child, I was given a peek into the toddler’s world. My colleague’s 24 month-old patient similarly was thought to be pulling on her ears, but really was just pretending to talk on an invisible phone. Fooled again!

I see at least one patient every day with the concern of an ear infection, when in fact their ear drums look fine. So don’t be embarrassed if you bring your child to their pediatrician for an ear-infection false alarm. There are tons of reasons kids pull on their ears. For example, ear-pulling is very popular among 4-6 month-old babies. If they could talk well enough to tell you why they pull on their ears they’d say “I just found these things on my head, aren’t they cool”? Soon enough they’ll grab your ears too: “Oh, hey! You’ve got those things too!”

It’s easy to think your child has an ear infection if they can’t speak well enough to tell you their ear hurts. But the bottom line is if your child has a fever or is very fussy you should have them examined. But if they are just pulling on their ears, you can ignore it. Or stick your fingers in your ears and hum. It does sound kinda cool.

Wanna learn about other baby fake-outs? Read: It’s not a seizure. Weird movements and other baby tricks.

More information about ear-pulling at HealthyChildren.org

TODAY.com Parenting Team Contributor

Author: Wendy Hunter, MD

Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, UC San Diego and pediatrician at Rady Children's Hospital, Department of Emergency Medicine.

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2 Comments

  1. merijhunter@mac.com'

    I remember doing that as a kid: putting my hands over my ears and talking.
    -Meredith Age: 12

  2. Saleahh@gmail.com'

    I was that mom who made a special trip to the pediatrician because my 4 month old was putting her thumb in her ear. Our wonderful pediatrician gave a similar explanation… “Do you really want to know why your daughter is doing this?….Because she discovered that she can”. As simple as that. Haha!

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