Informant: Sheila Hurley (married name is now Weiss), 79, is my grandmother who was born and raised in Wales by Irish parents. She grew up extremely Catholic: going to church every Sunday and schools directed by the Nuns of her local parish. She was influenced by the Irish heritage and customs of her parents and relatives that lived in her small town. She lived in Wales until she was 18 years old and then moved to New York to pursue a career in modeling. She now lives in Santa Monica, California where she raised her two daughters and helped raise her 3 grandchildren.
Sheila said, “In Irish Catholic folk belief, if you hear a ringing in your ear it means that souls in purgatory are calling to you and need you to pray for them.”
Sheila’s mother used to say this to her when she would complain of her ear ringing. She said that this was what her grandmother had taught her mother as well. This very catholic tradition and belief was a reminder that people were in purgatory and needed to be prayed for. Therefore; whenever her mother or other members of her family would hear a simple ringing in their ear, they would stop to pray for a short time to acknowledge that the souls were calling to them for help. Sheila likes this belief because it reminds her of her Catholic upbringing and keeps her in touch with her religion. She still practices it to this day
I believe that this tradition is a religious way to understand a random bodily occurrence. Ringing of the ears is something that happens to all people and there is often little explanation for why it happens. Making this “ringing” have a little more significance never hurt anybody. I also think that this was a way for adults to teach their children Catholic values and learn to pray on their own throughout the day. It is a Catholic ideal that prayer is a continuous aspect of everyone’s life and that God should be acknowledged even in the simplest of the day’s happenings. When someone’s ear rings, it can be passed over as just an annoyance, and it is for most people. Making the ringing have religious significance creates a practice of prayer throughout even the most mundane of things. This is something that is encouraged in the Catholic religion and is a way to show thoughtfulness for the deceased who have not yet reached Heaven.