Sometimes, ear pain can be the result of irritation due to tight headwear, uncomfortable headphones, sleeping on a hard surface, ear piercings, clenching or grinding the teeth, or getting something stuck in the ears.
What causes sore ears?
The ear is made up of three parts: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Air pressure in the middle ear is balanced by the eustachian tubes, which also allow mucus to pass from the middle ear to the throat. If the eustachian tube is blocked, it can cause fluid to accumulate and lead to abnormal eardrum pressure or an ear infection.
Potential causes of ear pain include:
- Ear infection (adults are less prone to experiencing ear pain from ear infections than infants and young children)
- Sinus infection
- Sore throat
- Tooth infection
- Arthritis of the jaw
- Temporomandibular joint syndrome
- Ear injury from pressure changes (at high altitudes and due to other causes)
- Objects getting stuck in the ear or buildup of earwax
- Hole in the eardrum
Other potential factors include:
- Ear canal irritation from cotton-tipped swabs
- Soap or shampoo residue in the ear
What symptoms are associated with sore ears?
Ear pain may be mild, dull, throbbing, or severe and accompanied by a burning sensation or a feeling of fullness. One or both ears may be affected. The pain may be continuous or intermittent. Other signs and symptoms include:
Infants and young children may exhibit the following signs and symptoms of an earache:
How is ear pain diagnosed?
If your ear pain is severe or is accompanied by other symptoms, consult your doctor.
An ENT specialist will examine your ears, nose, and throat in addition to checking for inflammation and fluid buildup behind the eardrum using an otoscope. An otoscope is a lighted instrument that helps examine the ears and assess the movements of the eardrum.
A specialist can also perform a hearing test.
How is ear pain treated?
Treatment of ear pain depends on the cause of the problem. Medications and surgery are two common treatment options.
- Ear drops may also be prescribed to relieve pain. Do not use it without consulting a doctor, as they can cause harm if there is a hole or perforation in the eardrum.
- Antibiotics may be prescribed if there is a bacterial infection.
- Children who frequently get ear infections may require surgery, in which a tiny tube is placed into the eardrums to stop fluid from accumulating. Tubes may be placed for the short or long term.
- Surgery may also be needed to treat certain chronic conditions, such as chronic suppurative otitis media.
In some cases, an earache can be caused by the accumulation of earwax in the ear canal. However, never insert anything into the ear, not even a cotton swab, to remove the earwax. Doing so will only push the wax deeper into the ear rather than remove it.
What are home remedies for earache?
If you have an earache, you can try these remedies to relieve pain and soreness:
- Applying a cold compress to the outer ear for 20 minutes can ease the pain.
- Chewing gum may ease the discomfort and pressure associated with an ear infection (this should be avoided in toddlers due to the risk of choking)
- Sitting up rather than lying down can help relieve middle ear pressure.
- If the eardrum has not ruptured, you can relieve pain with over-the-counter (OTC) ear drops. Children should not be given aspirin.
The following measures can help you prevent ear pain from occurring:
Earache (Ear Pain, Otalgia) https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22710-ear-ache-ear-pain
Why Does My Ear Hurt? https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ear-infection/why-does-ear-hurt
Ear Pain in Children https://www.mottchildren.org/posts/your-child/ear-pain-children
Top What Can Sore Ears Mean Related Articles
Ear Infections: All About Ear ConditionsWhat's that? I can't hear you. Maybe it's tinnitus, or impacted ear wax, or cauliflower ear (yup, that's a thing). Find out what may be ailing your ears in this slideshow.
Ear Infection SlideshowLearn about the causes and symptoms of ear infections and how they are diagnosed and treated. Read about treatments such as ear tubes and antibiotics, which could prevent future ear infections.
Ear Health QuizHow loud is too loud? Take this quiz to learn about your ears, how they function, and how to keep them healthy.
Middle Ear Infection (Otitis Media)A middle ear infection (otitis media) can cause earache, temporary hearing loss, and pus drainage from the ear. It is most common in babies, toddlers, and young children. Learn about causes and treatment.
Ear Infection QuizIs it possible to prevent ear infections? Take the Ear Infection (Otitis Media) Quiz to learn the risks, causes, symptoms and treatments for the common ear infection.
Earwax RemovalEarwax (ear wax) is a natural substance secreted by special glands in the skin on the outer part of the ear canal. It repels water, and traps dust and sand particles. Usually a small amount of wax accumulates, dries up, and then falls out of the ear canal carrying with it unwanted particles. Under ideal circumstances, you should never have to clean your ear canals. The absence of ear wax may result in dry, itchy ears, and even infection. Ear wax may accumulate in the ear for a variety of reasons including; narrowing of the ear canal, production of less ear wax due to aging, or an overproduction of ear wax in response to trauma or blockage within the ear canal.
Earache: 11 Effective Home RemediesMost earaches are not medical emergencies and can often be treated at home. You can try one or a few of the following remedies before visiting a doctor including warm compresses, cold compresses, pain medications, hydration, humidity, ear drops, chewing gum, sucking on candy, nasal spray or alternating your sleeping position to relieve earache symptoms.
How Can You Tell if Your Baby Has an Earache?The most common symptom of an ear infection is pain. You can tell if you baby has a ear infection because they may cry, have a fever, not want to eat, have trouble sleeping, and exhibit other symptoms.
How Do You Know if Ear Pain Is Serious?How do you know if ear pain is serious? Learn the signs of ear problems and when to see a doctor.
How Do You Know If You Have Vertigo or Ear Infection?The sensation that the world around you is spinning is called vertigo while infection of the inner ear may cause labyrinthitis. The type of vertigo that is associated with an inner ear infection is called peripheral vertigo.
Inner Ear Infection (Labyrinthitis)Labyrinthitis occurs when there is inflammation of the part of the ear responsible for balance and hearing), usually due to viral infections of the inner ear. Learn about causes, symptoms, and treatment.
Which Antibiotic Is Best for An Ear Infection?Ototopical antibiotics are medications administered topically in the ear for treating middle ear infections. Ototopical antibiotics are usually the first-line treatment for recurrent bacterial ear infections, in the absence of systemic infection.