Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Ear - Touching Habit (Normal)


  • A young child who touches, pulls, tugs, or pokes at the ear
  • No crying or report of ear pain

Call or Return If

  • Ear pain or crying occurs
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child becomes worse

About This Topic


  • Main cause (infants): Normal touching and pulling with discovery of ears. This is usually seen between 4 and 12 months of age.
  • Rubbing the ear is also common in younger children (under age 2 or 3).
  • Some children touch their ears as they fall asleep. If it occurs only then, it may be a self-comforting habit.
  • Simple ear pulling without other symptoms such as fever or crying is harmless. These children rarely have an ear infection.

After Care Advice

  • Most of these children have discovered their ears and are playing with them.
  • Ear pulling without other symptoms is not a sign of an ear infection.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
  • If touching the ear is a new habit, ignore it. This helps prevent your child from doing it for attention.
Keep Soap Out of the Ears:
  • Keep soap and shampoo out of the ear canal.
  • Reason: Makes the ears itchy.
Do Not Use Cotton Swabs:
  • Cotton swabs can push earwax back and cause a plug.
  • Earwax has a purpose. It protects the lining of the ear canal.
  • Earwax also comes out on its own.
  • Q-tips should never be used before the teen years. Reason: They are wider than the ear canal.
What to Expect:
  • An ear touching habit can continue for months.
  • It is harmless.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2021 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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