The ear drum is a sensory organ within the ear canal, and can be damaged if you stick an object deep enough in it. In addition, there's no direct path from one ear to the other inside the head, even if material could get through the eardrums - rather, the ears hook up to the nose and throat via the Eustachian tubes, though the eardrum is designed to be watertight. In an ideal situation, nothing should pass through the ears and enter the throat!
This is not the case in cartoons. In the toon world, the ears are there so sound (or just about anything) can go directly into the brain (or out the other ear if the character has no brain to speak of).
Sometimes, the thing that went into the ear ends up visible in the character's eyeballs, as if they were just windows into his head.
A variation of this trope does not involve physical objects going into the ear, but rather a POV shot of a character's ear showing an unobstructed view through their empty head and out the opposite ear. At least it proves they're not too dense for light to escape them.
If a living creature does this to another character's ears, this overlaps with Orifice Invasion.
See also Hollow-Sounding Head and Who Even Needs a Brain?. Can occasionally overlap with Disability Immunity and Orifice Invasion. Doesn't refer to when things people are saying go metaphorically "in one ear and out the other"; that sense would be covered by Comically Missing the Point or Not Listening to Me, Are You?.
- An Australian KFC Hot and Spicy ad campaign from the 90s had customers gain the ability to breath fire after eating the spicy chicken. One commerical featured a guy tucking into a bucket of extra hot chicken while his Dumb Blonde girlfriend sitting beside him is completely absorbed in a very cliche sounding soap opera. Without taking her eyes off the screen she asks him what he is eating. He responds by leaning over and blowing softly in her ear causing a jet of flame to shoot straight out of her other ear. As he leans back she blinks, shakes her head slightly, comments that it sounds nice and reaches for a piece herself, still without taking her eyes off the screen (see it here.)
- American artist George Condo has painted several satirical portraits of Queen Elizabeth II, one of which shows her with a carrot lodged through her ears.
- The French comic Les Blondes had a joke around this. In an early volume a Dumb Blonde is listening to some gossip on her cell phone and laughing out loud. Her equally blonde friend asks her what the gossip is and the first blonde tells her to stick her ear next to the first blonde's other ear, allowing her to listen in on the phonecall. It works. A later strip had a similar joke involving an iPod an the two girls sharing a single set of earbuds.
- The 24th volume has a longer joke where Kim brings a nervous Vanessa along to a Star Wars convention. Kim is dressed in full Jedi robes and carries a toy lightsaber but poor Vanessa lacks any sort of costume and is nearly thrown out. Kim tells the other fans that the "the Force is strong in her [Vanessa's] family" and 'proves' it by turning off the lights and having Vanessa shine a blue flashlight in her left ear... the beam of which naturally shines out Vanessa's right ear, looking like a lightsaber passing harmlessly through her (ala Obi-Wan in Episode IV). The other fans love it and literally fall down in worship of Vanessa, much to her surprise and delight.
- The 27th volume has Vanessa trying to get water out of her left ear after a shower. She 'loses' two cotton swabs down her left ear, only to discover them coming out her right ear.
- An early Boule et Bill page had Boule's dad try to administer some eardrops to Bill. The first ear goes fine, but when he switches to the second ear, the drops in the first start leaking out just at the right time for Boule (and soon Dad as well) to mistake it for this trope.
- The trope image is a one-panel gag taken from the 1940s Good Humor comics (now in the public domain, readable here.).
- In an early 1980s Garfield strip, Garfield witnesses a bug flying into Odie's ear... only to come out of the other one. Smiling, he thinks/speaks to himself: "Figures."
- In a later strip Jon whispers into Odie's ear what he is going to get Garfield for Christmas, only to stop when he notices Garfield listening at Odie's other ear.
- A 1960s The Perishers strip had Maisie being chased by Wellington with a water pistol. Maisie asked Marlon for help, only to have Wellington squirt the gun into Marlon's ear, straight through his head, into Maisie's face. Marlon, of course, hardly noticed.
- A 1940s-era political cartoon by Dr. Seuss showed a line of citizens waiting to have Uncle Sam spray a "mental insecticide" into their ear. Out of the other ear was blown a "Racial Prejudice Bug." The citizen is shocked to realize that such a creature was living in their head.
- Referenced in Dragon Ball Z Abridged, but with a snarky twist.
Chi-Chi: Neither of you are going to fight this crazy robot. We're all going to stay here, be nice and peaceful, and become doctor-lawyer-scientists!
Gohan: Yeah, that's great Mom, but you know if you tell that to Dad, it's gonna go in one ear and get bored and die.
- Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space. When bumbling henchman Lonzak has a laser-sighted pistol pointed up his nose, a faint red glow can be seen coming from his ears.
- In Asterix and Cleopatra, when the workers are on lunch break, Artifis addresses them. One turns his head towards him but keeps moving his spoon, sending food into his ear until it comes through.
- In Flushed Away one of Rita's countless hyperactive younger brothers experimentally sticks a spoon into one of his ears at meal time and cheerfully pulls it out the opposite ear.
- In Space Jam, doctor Daffy examines Michael Jordan's ear and is able to see Bugs through the other ear. Bugs even yodels to test the echo.
- Dopey clears water out of his ears by blowing it out.
- In Pinocchio, Gideon the cat tries to listen to what the coachman is whispering to Honest John by putting his ear to John's other ear. When he can't hear anything, he cleans out the ear with his finger. He also earns bonus points by plugging up his own other ear to make sure nothing comes out.
- Hot Shots!:
- Admiral Benson demonstrates this with a handkerchief through the ears, explaining it as a result of one of his many war wounds.
- The movie poster shows a jet going through several characters' ear canals.
- In Loaded Weapon 1, when Ms. Fanservice asks The Hero to "blow in my ear," doing so results in a hollow jug-sound, her hair covering her other ear billowing in the breeze, and a candle by her head being snuffed out.
- Played with in low budget horror spoof Stan Helsing. After Mia (a Brainless Beauty), does something particularly stupid the irritated hero blows in her ear and lifts up the hair on the other side, pretending he can blow through her head. Except blowing in Mia's ear really does cause a wind whistling-through-empty-space sound and the oblivious Mia looks around nervously for the source of the noise.
Mia Do you guys hear that?
- Happens in The Living Daylights. Just watch it here. It's just a perspective effect.
- The kung-fu film The Mighty One has the main villain having a sword shoved clean through his eardrums.
- In the first Scary Movie, this happens to Ray. With a penis.
- Years later in Dance Flick Shawn Wayans (who played Ray) is on the giving rather than recieving end: he seductively sticks his Overly Long Tongue into his girlfriend's ears and the tip of his tongue comes out her other ear (the girlfriend clearly enjoys the experience).
- Happens a few times in The Three Stooges. For example, in one episode Moe throws a feather duster through Shemp's ears and has to help him pull it out.
- The poster◊ for Scary Movie 5 has a devilish looking Katrina Bowden sticks her tongue into Sarah Hyland's right ear, with the forked tip flickering playfully out the left ear (Hyland's expression while this is going on is hilarious.)
- Happens in French comedy La folie des grandeurs (a parody of Victor Hugo's Ruy Blas), where Don Salluste's servant attempts to dry his master's ear after his bath, and ends up pulling the towel from the other ear.
- A Black Comedy example in Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare. Freddy torments a deaf teen named Carlos by sticking a very long q-tip so far into his ear that it pops out Carlos' opposite ear.
- In the 1953 Bob Hope film Off Limits Mickey Rooney is being evaluated for Army service, a doctor uses his penlight to examine Rooney's ears and Hope holds his palm up at the other side to show the light is going straight through unimpeded.
Bob Hope: Looks like this man is officer material!
- One of the publicity shots◊ for Heathers has Heather McNamara whispering into Heather Chandler's right ear, while Heather Duke clings to Chandler's left shoulder, leaning close to Chandler's left ear to listen in.
- Roger Rabbit scratches through his ears with a file.
- A short gag in Muppets from Space has Beaker cleaning his ears with a Q-tip that goes all the way through his head.
- One of the posters for the 1996 Tom Arnold comedy The Stupids had the main character shining a flashlight through the ears of his entire family.
- Animorphs has a variation: Yeerks are slug-like aliens who can flatten themselves to wrap around a host's brain and control them, entering through the ear canal to do so (being soft-bodied, the host isn't harmed by the Yeerk slug entering and exiting every three days to feed).
- An old episode of Night Gallery had a man in a jungle being tortured by having an earwig tunnel through his head, going through one ear and out the other. He survived, but it left eggs inside. Needless to say, the whole thing was biologically wrong.
- In an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch Zelda looks into Sabrina's ear and can see Hilda through the other ear.
- They also, on occasion, use "mental floss" to enhance their mental acuity. It works exactly how it sounds.
- Invoked in the Hannah Montana episode 'Get Down, Study-udy-udy':
Lilly: (Lifts Miley's hair and peers into her ear) "Hey Oliver, I can see you!"Oliver: (Looks into Miley's opposite ear) "Oh, I see you too!" (They wave at each other.)
- In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "From Within", a small town is invaded by prehistoric slug-like parasites who crawl into a victim's head through nostrils or earholes and turn them into hedonistic deliquents. A waitress has one slug crawl in her right ear, then much later falls out of her left ear dead, leaving her back to normal. This might have been a mistake but she did come across as pretty ditzy so this might have been a stealth pun...
- In the short lived sitcom The Pitts Lizzy Caplan played a Butt-Monkey Bratty Teenage Daughter who at one point gets a pipe lodged through her head (side to side rather than front to back) at ear level and is completely unharmed (other than the social embarassment of being a teenage girl with a pipe through her head.) At one point a doctor shone a torch through her pipe and could see out the opposite side.
- One episode of The Beverly Hillbillies features Granny giving Jethro a physical before he joins the army. At one point she is using a candle to look into his ear then, still looking in the same ear, moves the candle to the other side of his head. She blows in the original ear, snuffing the candle out. "If that boy had six ears, you could play him like an ocarina!" Granny concludes.
- An episode of Victorious had Cat get a butterfly stuck in her left ear. After several attempts to get it out Robbie enlists the aid of Andre's grandmother who yells into Cat's left ear, causing the butterfly to fly out the opposite ear. Lampshaded by a confused Robbie:
Robbie: "But it came out of your right ear."
- Invoked in Operation Ouch when one of the doctors is looking in his brother's ear and claims to be able to see daylight on the other side. His brother hen tries to look for himself.
- In one episode of Sister, Sister Ray is in the middle of chastising Tamera, notices she isn't paying any attention and adds "Why do I get the feeling that everything I say is going IN ONE EAR AND OUT THE OTHER?!". The camera pans to Tamera daydreaming while Ray's suddenly visible dialogue goes in her left ear and out her right.
- Played on Whose Line Is It Anyway? when they're showing what the doctor sees when he looks in someone's ear. Ryan looks into Colin's ear and sees Greg on the other side of the stage.
- Home Improvement: On one episode of Tool Time, Al shined a flashlight on the side of Tim's head, and the light shone through to the far side of the set.
- The Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers music video for "Make It Better (Forget About Me)" has a tiny Petty climb into the ear of a (very confused looking) young blonde woman and play the whole song inside her (mostly empty) head. She eventually uses a q-tip to get rid of them.
- The Björk music video for "I Miss You" is part live action, part animated (by John Kricfalusi) and features a sexy cartoon Flintstones-like 'cave girl' version of Bjork with a bone going through her ears. This is far from the weirdest sight to appear in the video.
- Several versions of this trope turned up over the years in the pages of Weekly World News ranging from a man with transparent brain tissue (so one could shine a light in one ear and have it come out the other), to a young Kansas woman who discovered someone blowing in her ear would result in a breeze coming out the other side to a dimwitted Californian surfer dude who was cleaning his ear with a q-tip, and "not finding much resistance" decided to see how far it could go (right out the other ear it turns out, which the surfer found "way cool").
- Waxy Wendy (also called Cute Tippi) from the Garbage Pail Kids trading cards is a girl who uses a giant cotton swab to clean both ears simultaneously.
- In Psychonauts, Raz is able to look directly into the brain cavity through the ear, and can see right out the other ear of brain-theft victims.
- The depressed inventor in Day of the Tentacle tries to blow his brains out and points his "Bang!" Flag Gun to his left ear but all that happens is the flag coming out the other ear.
- An episode of RWBY Chibi has a firefly doing this on Penny. Justified in that she's a robot.
- At one point in Dominic Deegan, Spark notes that Quilt doesn't have a brain. When Donovan (on one side of Quilt) asks why he thinks that, Spark (sitting on the other side) looks through Quilt's ears and says, "I can see you."
- In the Looney Tunes cartoon Beanstalk Bunny, Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny enter the giant Elmer Fudd's head through opposite ears.
- The Ren & Stimpy Show: Stimpy's brain is often falling out through his ear.
- The Flintstones: Barney Rubble was once seen sticking a rag through one ear and out the other to give his brain a good flossing.
- In the old British cartoon Hamilton the Elephant, the ringleader is giving orders to Hamilton but finds that his words literally go in one ear and out the other. He has to cork his other ear in order for Hamilton to comprehend.
- In a Freaky Stories story, an earwig climbs into a man's ear. When it is finally removed, he realizes the earwig was extracted from the opposite ear it went in.
- Happens often on Jimmy Two-Shoes, mostly to Beezy.
- Happens a few times on Ed, Edd n Eddy on one occasion Eddy sticks his hand clean through one of Ed's ears and out the other, and in another Eddy squirts a turkey baster at the kids the water passes through Sarah, Jimmy, and Johnny's ears.
- In an episode of Family Guy after the gang has been defeated by Joe after trying to re-cripple him Bonnie shoots at him several times trying to hit his spine one of her shots passes through one of his ears and out the other, despite blood and brain matter splattering on the wall this doesn't kill him like it should.
- In an episode of Total Drama Island a bug flies into one of Geoff's ears and right out the other.
- The Simpsons:
- In a Treehouse of Horror episode, Bart is attacked by a fleet of tiny spaceships. One flies into his left ear and flew out his right apparently without causing any damage other than a little discomfort.
- Another episode has Ralph Wiggum put Play-Doh into his mouth and pretend he's a Play-Doh activity center. It comes out of his mouth and nose... and eventually his ears.
- Yet another episode has Moe, depressed over Christmas, run through a monatage of failed suicide attempts (all played for laughs.) At one point he sticks a relvover in one of his ears, pulls the trigger and a "bang" flang pops harmlessly out his other ear, much to his frustration.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In the episode "A Friend In Deed", Pinkie Pie blows on a horn which goes right into Cranky Doodle Donkey's ear and out the other side.
- In the episode "Princess Twilight Sparkle Part 2" Discord pops out of Twilight Sparkle's left ear, mocks her then slides back into her ear canal only to emerge from her right ear. She's not pleased.
- One Tiny Toon Adventures episode had a baseball pass through one of Sylvester's ears and out the other.
- Mr. Bogus:
- The second act of the episode "Class Clown Bogus" had Bogus drying himself off with a napkin after a trip through the dishwasher, before he sticks the napkin through his left ear and pulls it out through the other ear.
- The first claymation short shown during the intro before the episode "Beach Blanket Bogus" had Bogus attempt to clean out his ear, before using a cotton swab to do so, with the cotton swab going through his left ear and sticking out from his right ear.
- In the Littlest Pet Shop (2012) episode "What Did You Say?" at one point Blythe cleans out her ears this way.
- In the Aladdin: The Series episode "Strike up the Sand" Genie having transformed himself into an insect buzzes around Razoul to distract him while Abu steals his badge. At one point Genie flies into one Razoul's ears and straight out the opposite ear.
- In the Goof Troop episode "Inspector Goofy" Pete is trying to convince the city to hire Goofy, claiming he has an 'open mind', which he demonstrates by lifting up Gooofy's ears and revealing one can look in and see straight through the other.
- Tom was very frequently the target of this trope in the Tom and Jerry cartoons, for example getting a fishbowl stuck on his head and having a goldfish swim through his ears. This also happens to Jerry but far less frequently.
- An episode of Animaniacs saw the Warner siblings pestered by an extrememely boring guest they were unable to get to leave and who him continued droning on as they went to bed. Unable to get get to sleep Dot squeezed her pillow into one of her ears to block out the sound, resulting in half the pillow popping out her opposite ear.
- In the Growing Up Creepie episode 'Night of Fright' Gnat (a bug) is buzzing around Creepie trying to aggravate her. He finally succeeds when he flies into her right ear and emerges out her left ear seconds later cackling "Anybody home?".
- Madison from Class of 3000.
- The Beatles cartoon episode "I've Just Seen A Face" has John, George and Paul examining Ringo, who has lost his singing voice. George and Paul look into each of Ringo's ears and see each other's eye looking back.
- Tex Avery's M-G-M cartoon "Dog-Gone Tired" has a hunter's dog trying to stave off noises instigated by the rabbit he's to hunt in the morning by pulling a pillow through his ears.
- In the Snagglepuss cartoon "The Gangsters All Here" when posing as a lion skin rug the gangster Mugsy tries to a fly off Snagglepuss' nose it flys into his ear and out the other, then he fires his gun into his ear to shoot the fly out with the bullet passing out his other ear, he then comments "That's a bad taxidermy job the head is empty".
- In the Popeye cartoon "I Don't Scare" a goldfish bowl, complete with goldfish, is knocked into the air and lands on Olive Oyl's head. The goldfish happily swims into Olive's left ear and out her right without meeting any obstruction.
- Tex Avery loved this trope. Besides the aforementioned "Dog-Gone Tired" he also used it in "Slap Happy Lion" where a mouse trying to evade a lion creeps into one of his ears tiptoes through the lion's empty head and emerges from the other ear without the lion being any the wiser.
- In the Teen Titans Go! episode "Uncle Jokes" Starfire, trying to impress Beat Boy and Cyborg that she can use food as comedy, use a string of spaghetti to floss her ears this way.
- In the Scaredy Squirrel episode "Water Damage" Scaredy gets his ears clogged by water while in the shower. As part of his many efforts to unclog them he tries flossing back and forth with a towel between his ears (it doesn't help.)
- There has been a case where a young boy got something stuck in his ear and his brother tried to get it out by pushing it all the way through the other ear, apparently because he's seen it done in cartoons many times.
- There's a particular magic trick with a pencil (no, not that one, God no) which imitates this.
- The trope name is an almost word-for-word translation of a French expression ("Ça rentre par une oreille et ça sort par l'autre" — "it enters through one ear and exits through the other") used for people who do not pay any attention to what is said to them. This trope name has also been adopted to identical meaning in a number of other languages.
- These Japanese earplugs.