my ears are burning

A tingling or burning sensation in the ears supposedly means that a person is being discussed by others.

The origin of this belief goes back to Roman times when augurs paid particular attention to such signs. Pliny wrote: ‘It is acknowledged that the absent feel a presentiment of remarks about themselves by the ringing of their ears’ (Naturalis Historia, AD 77). 

English literature, from Chaucer to Dickens, abounds with references to burning ears.

According to ancient belief, other unexpected bodily twitches and sensations also warn of events to come, among them the eye and the thumb. A flickering right eye, for instance, indicates that a friend will visit or that something longed for will soon be seen, and a pricking in one’s left thumb warns of an evil event.

It seems likely that the origin for the expression would be the flushed feeling (hotness and redness) one gets due to increased blood flow to the face and ears when one becomes self-conscious or embarrassed as a result of, for example, being talked about.

Similar to this is ‘ring in your ears” to describe the feeling that you can hear some sound echoing. ‘The music at water exercises this morning was so loud, it’s still ringing in my ears.’

Another “ear” phrase is “prick up your ears,” which means to listen carefully, especially because you have just heard something interesting. But perhaps you should avoid pricking up your ears, in case you hear something embarrassing and your ears begin to burn!

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