You’ve probably heard people described as “having smoke come out of their ears,” but some people actually experience literal hot ears, which are warm to the touch.
When ears feel hot, they often turn a reddish color and may be accompanied by a burning sensation. If you have hot ears, they may feel painful to the touch. This condition can affect one or both ears.
What causes hot ears?
Hot ears aren’t a stand-alone condition. A number of factors can cause hot ears. Each factor has its own definition and treatment plan, although sometimes the treatments overlap. Hot ears can have the following causes:
Ears can become sunburned, just like any other part of your body. If your hot ears occur after exposure to the sun, and if the area becomes red, crusty, or flaky, a sunburn may be to blame. Find out how long this sunburn might last.
Sometimes ears get hot as a reaction to an emotion, such as anger, embarrassment, or anxiety. Your ears should cool down once you do.
Change in temperature
Being in extremely cold temperatures can cause vasoconstriction, which reduces blood flow to the surface of your body. Your cheeks, nose, and ears can all experience vasoconstriction. Those who ski, snowboard, and engage in other outdoor activities may experience red ears, as the body adjusts to the temperature and attempts to self-regulate its blood flow.
Both children and adults are susceptible to ear infections, with different symptoms for each. Adults generally only experience ear pain, drainage from the ear, and diminished hearing. However, children can experience those symptoms as well as a fever, headache, lack of appetite, and a loss of balance.
Ear infections occur in the middle ear and are caused by a virus or bacterium. Learn more about the possible causes of, as well as treatments for, ear infections.
Hot ears can be a result of menopause or other hormonal changes, such as those caused by the medication used for chemotherapy. A hot flash can make you feel warm all over. Symptoms generally diminish over time.
Red ear syndrome
Red ear syndrome (RES) is a rare condition that involves burning pain in the ear. It can be brought on by normal daily activities, such as stress, neck movements, touch, exertion, and washing or brushing your hair. It can affect one or both ears, and it’s sometimes accompanied by a migraine. RES can last minutes to hours and can occur multiples times a day or reappear after several days.
RES is difficult to treat, and it can range from mild discomfort to a great deal of pain.
Another rare condition, erythermalgia (also called erythromelalgia or EM), is characterized by redness and burning pain in one or more of the extremities. In rare cases, it occurs solely in a person’s face and ears. EM is often brought on by mild exercise or warm temperatures.
The pain is usually so severe that it impacts daily life. In very rare cases, the condition may be brought on by a specific trigger, such as oranges.
Can high blood pressure cause your ears to become hot?
Although extremely high blood pressure may cause some general flushing of your face and ears, it doesn’t specifically cause ears to become hot.Deborah Weatherspoon, PhD, RN, CRNAAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Because the treatment for hot ears depends on the cause, your doctor will need to determine the underlying condition before proceeding with action. If you’re unsure as to the reason for your hot ears, and if they impact your daily life, seek guidance from a doctor.
While some causes share the same treatment, others can become exacerbated if treated the wrong way. For example, while ice and soaking is generally helpful, it can be harmful when used to treat erythermalgia, as the extreme cold may not register to the affected body part.
Use sunscreen or a hat for prevention. After a sunburn occurs, aloe vera, hydrocortisone cream, and ice packs can promote healing. Learn about home remedies for minor burns.
Change in temperature
Protect your ears with a cap or ear muffs. Remember that sunburns can occur in cold weather too, especially if the sun is reflected off of snow or ice.
An ear infection may subside on its own after a few days. A warm compress or over-the-counter pain medications might help. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if the infection is bacterial. If your baby is the one experiencing an ear infection, here are a few other home remedies you could try.
Dress in layers so you can remove and put on clothing as needed. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods.
Red ear syndrome
Elevate or cool the affected body part without using ice or soaking, which can cause injury. You can also use over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medications, such as gabapentin (Neurontin) or pregabalin (Lyrica).
What is the outlook for hot ears?
Hot ears can be caused by a number of factors, so the outlook varies by the condition that triggered it. Some conditions, such as ear infections and sunburns, are quite common and easily treated.
Others, such as red ear syndrome, are highly rare, and medical professionals are still in the process of understanding their origins and how to treat them.
When seeking help from a doctor, be sure to list all of your symptoms, how long the hotness has occurred, and if something specific preceded it. The more background knowledge your doctor has, the more likely you are to receive a correct diagnosis, which can speed up your treatment and healing.