The ear grab refers to a subconscious desire to “hear no evil” and is done by reaching up and pulling the ear in response to, either hearing something disagreeable, or saying something disagreeable. Children make no bones about blocking their ears when being teased or scolded by parents, but as we grow older, we drop the cue short because it is seen as juvenile, so instead we pull our ear, or earlobe. The gesture is an attempt at preventing the sounds from reaching a deeper part of the brain. It also sometimes represents anxiety and nervousness, and is classified as a defensive posture. We may see this gesture arise just as a performer is about to take the stage in front of thousands of people as they try to relieve stress.
When ear grabbing is done while listening to others speaks it is due to disbelief as in “I can’t believe what I’m hearing” and the same “hearing no evil” is at play. In this case though, it is the receiver, not the sender, who wishes not to hear the lie. By touching or scratching the ears we hope that we can satisfy the nerve endings and end the discomfort. In other words, when we hear bad things, we go to our ears to try to turn the volume down. Other times, touching the ear means nothing at all and is simply the result of nervousness or boredom so be careful while reading this body language cue.