stock image of a mother and her baby in Birmingham, AL You’ve noticed your child tugging at her ears repeatedly. You’d like to think she’s just a Carol Burnett fan, but worry that her ear tugging could be the sign of something more ominous, such as an ear infection.

You examine her ear and it seems fine — no signs of abrasions, irritation or infections. Since your baby can’t yet talk, she can’t even tell you if her ear hurts or not.

Some reasons she could be tugging at her ear include:

  • She’s tired or sleepy
  • Her ears are filled with wax
  • She has fluid in her ears
  • She has an ear infection

If you suspect an ear infection or blockage, bring her to Pediatric ENT Associates, part of Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham, as soon as possible. Don’t try to clean out her ear yourself. Never put a cotton-tipped swab or any other object in her ear canal, as you could accidentally pierce her eardrum or cause other serious damage that could threaten her hearing.

Ear Infections Have Other Symptoms Too

Ear tugging by itself is rarely a sign of ear infection. However, if your child has other symptoms, you should call the specialists at Pediatric ENT Associates immediately. Symptoms include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Crying more
  • Being crankier than usual
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Loss of balance
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fluid drainage from the ear
  • Fever of 100 F or higher

Why You Want an Ear Infection Expert

Dr. Kulbersh looking into the ears of a patient experiencing an ear infection in Birmingham, AL If your child has fluid or wax buildup in her ear or an ear infection, you want to be sure she gets a thorough and comprehensive evaluation, and the most supportive and state-of-the-art therapies possible.

At Pediatric ENT Associates in Birmingham, AL, our ENT doctors are widely published experts in the field who stay on top of the latest advances in ear, nose, and throat health.

We take the time to listen to your concerns, observe your child’s behavior and give her a physical examination.

Therapies for an ear infection could include fluid drainage, antibiotics, and — if the ear infections are chronic — placement of myringotomy tubes to preserve her hearing. To learn more about ear infections, visit

At our Birmingham medical clinic, we also take the time to teach you ways to prevent future ear infections such as:

  • Don’t let your baby drink her bottle while lying down
  • Take away pacifiers after 12 months of age
  • Don’t let her share items with other children or babies
  • Avoid cigarette smoke
  • Breastfeed your child, if possible
  • Keep her up to date on immunizations
  • Wash her hands frequently

No Other Symptoms?

If your child has no symptoms other than ear tugging, seems happy and alert, and the ear tugging doesn’t look uncomfortable, she might be just fine. Some children enjoy pulling on their ears because it’s soothing. You can keep a diary or jot down on your calendar when the ear tugging incidents occur and what you think may have prompted them.  

However, if she’s in any kind of distress, call us at Pediatric ENT Associates for an ear infection or blockage evaluation. Call our Birmingham offices to make an appointment with an ENT specialist today.