EWTN Catholic Q&A
both ears will ring
Question from lt on 11-24-2012:

1 Samuel {3:11} And the Lord said to Samuel: “Behold, I am accomplishing a word in Israel. Whoever will hear about it, both his ears will ring."

Is the ears ringing literal or figurative? What does it mean?

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 11-27-2012:

The text reads as follows:

8 And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose up and went to Heli.

9 And said: Here am I: for thou didst call me. Then Heli understood that the Lord called the child, and he said to Samuel: Go, and sleep: and if he shall call thee any more, thou shalt say: Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went, and slept in his place.

10 And the Lord came, and stood, and he called, as he had called the other times, Samuel, Samuel. And Samuel said: Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.

11 And the Lord said to Samuel: Behold I do a thing in Israel: and whosoever shall hear it, both his ears shall tingle.

12 In that day I will raise up against Heli all the things I have spoken concerning his house: I will begin, and I will make an end.

13 For I have foretold unto him, that I will judge his house for ever, for iniquity, because he knew that his sons did wickedly, and did not chastise them.

14 Therefore have I sworn to the house of Heli, that the iniquity of his house shall not be expiated with victims nor offerings for ever.

The meaning is that there will be astonishment and terror over what the Lord will do by way of chastisement. Given that emotions can also affect us physically, I would not doubt that their ears tingled as well, along the lines of our ears getting warm and red when we get angry--at least for some of us :)

Father Echert