What It Means When Your Ears Suddenly Get Hot To The Touch

On a sweltering hot day, or when hit with a wave of nerves, you may notice a sense of heat rising in your chest or face. But have you ever raised your hands to your ears only to discover they, too, have become hot to the touch?

There's no shortage of possible explanations for a bout of warm ears. However, causes may vary based on whether you deal with hot ears temporarily or on an ongoing basis. In the short term, a surge of intense emotion could be what's behind your suddenly-hot ears, according to experts at Miracle-Ear. Such emotions may include anger or embarrassment. Much like blushing, it's during these moments that the blood vessels in the face widen, making our skin red and hot (via WebMD). The same can happen in the ears.

Similarly, our blood vessels also dilate in response to hot temperatures. Therefore, you may notice your ears becoming red and hot when standing outside in the sun in the thick of summer. Even more, if you happen to develop a sunburn while outdoors, you'll be further increasing your chances of overly-warm ears.

Health conditions related to hot ears

Alternatively, redness and heat that comes on abruptly in the ears may potentially be the result of a health condition. This can include eczema, a middle ear infection, or even hormonal fluctuations, such as during puberty (via Miracle-Ear). An injury to the area, as well as the use of certain medications can also make ears hot to the touch.

In rarer cases, hot ears may be caused by a condition known as trigeminal neuralgia, which is characterized by pain due to compression of the trigeminal nerve. The disorder can affect various areas of the face and neck, as well as the ears. Ears that suddenly become red and hot can also stem from a condition called perichondritis, or inflammation related to things such as bug bites or new ear piercings. Finally, while not entirely understood, a person diagnosed with red ear syndrome can also experience heat in the ears, often accompanied with other symptoms. Usually isolated to just one ear, the condition can impact one's hearing abilities.

When to see your doctor for hot ears

As a reminder, ears that feel hot upon contact are not always indicative of a health condition. Rather, some research shows that warm ears may merely be a sign that your body is ready for bed. Researchers from a 2022 study published in the Journal of Sleep Research looked at 44 adults, 13 of which experienced a substantial boost in ear skin temperature within five minutes prior to falling asleep. The study findings also showed a connection between rising ear skin temperature and lying on one's back prior to sleep.

When it comes to treatment for ears that feel hot to the touch, it will largely depend on the cause. If emotions, outdoor exposure, or any other temporary factors are to blame, you'll likely notice the heat subsiding shortly after the fact. However, if infection or an alternate health condition is responsible for your hot ears, be sure to consult with your physician — particularly if the heat sensations do not improve within a couple hours.