Ear Infections

Why Does My Ear Hurt? 10 Causes of Ear Pain

written by Becki Andrus
Why Does My Ear Hurt? 10 Causes of Ear Pain

An earache can range from minor discomfort to severe pain that interrupts your daily activities. If you are experiencing any level of pain, it’s important to identify the root cause so you can alleviate your symptoms.

Earaches are common in children. However, adults can also experience ear pain either occasionally or chronically.

Just because your ears are bothering you doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s an infection. There are many other potential causes of ear pain, which is why it’s a good idea to visit an ENT for an official diagnosis.

These are the 10 most common causes of ear pain:

Ear Pain Cause #1: Excess Earwax

The production of earwax is expected and essential for cleansing the ears. This is because healthy ears are always making earwax, and the excess naturally moves out through the openings of the ears.

But if something goes wrong with this process, the wax can harden and build up within the ear, causing the canal to get blocked. This condition is known as impacted ear wax and can result in ear pain.

Don’t try to remove the wax on your own because it can push it farther back and worsen it. Instead, the best solution is to visit an ENT for professional ear cleaning services.

Ear Pain Cause #2: Middle Ear Infection

Often, an infection in the middle ear is a secondary infection that happens after you have another health issue. For example, you might get sick with a head cold or sinus infection, then notice that your ears start hurting a few days into the illness.

An increase in fluid production in your ears and nose can cause a fluid buildup in the middle ear, resulting in an infection. This ear pain is most commonly treated using antibiotics to clear the infection. You might also consider a decongestant to prevent fluid buildup in the ear.

Ear Pain Cause #3: Toothache

Did you know that the nerves in your teeth can radiate pain into the ears? Even though the source of pain and irritation is in a tooth, the pain can also move into the ears. This is because dental nerves pass closely to the inner ear.

This referred pain causes real symptoms, but everything within the ear looks ok. Your ENT might recommend that you visit a dentist to check if there is a tooth infection that needs to be treated.

Common dental issues that can cause ear pain include impacted molars, cavities, and tooth abscesses.

Ear Pain Cause #4: Change in Pressure

The ears naturally equalize when you experience a change in air pressure. For example, sometimes you might feel a “pop” in the ear when on an airplane or driving up a mountain.

But if the pressure changes too quickly, it might make it hard for the eustachian tube to rebalance. Instead, try chewing on gum, sucking on hard candy, yawning, or pinching your nose, and then gently trying to blow air out of the nose.

Ear Pain Cause #5: Sore Throat

Sometimes, the development of a sore throat can cause radiating pain into the ears. In addition, you might have an infection in the throat that results in other symptoms affecting your ears and nose.

In fact, there are times when ear pain is the most noticeable symptom when a sore throat is present. The best way to alleviate the ear pain is to treat the sore throat issue. You might need to wait for the illness to run its course if it’s a viral infection.

Ear Pain Cause #6: TMJ Disorder

The temporomandibular joint is located at the point where the upper and lower jaws connect – right below your ears. If you grind or clench your teeth, then it could result in an ache in the muscles that radiates into the ears.

Treating TMJ not only reduces the tension and stress in your facial muscles and jaw, but it can also make your ears feel better. Talk to a dental expert about treatments that can help to alleviate the tension and improve your symptoms.

Ear Pain Cause #7: Swimmer’s Ear

Have you recently been in a lake or swimming pool and have ear pain symptoms? It could be an outer ear infection. The water gets trapped in the ear canal and creates the ideal environment for the development of an infection.

Symptoms of swimmer’s ear include redness, swelling, itching, and/or leaking pus. First, visit an ENT for a diagnosis and prescription. Then, be proactive about drying your ears thoroughly after swimming in the future.

Ear Pain Cause #8: Tumors

In rare cases, ear pain might be caused by one or more tumors located within the ears or nearby. If you are experiencing ear pain, talk to an ENT for an examination and diagnosis to rule out issues like tumors and other serious health concerns.

Ear Pain Cause #9: Ear Injury

An impact or blow to the ear can damage the cartilage or cause bone fractures in the area. Any time there is an injury to the ear, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor to determine if there is underlying damage that needs to be treated.

Ear Pain Cause #10: Object Stuck in the Ear

One possible cause of ear pain is having an object stuck in the ear. This cause is more common among young children who sometimes put small things up their noses or in their ears.

Even if you can see the object, use caution with at-home removal treatments. If the item is lodged in the area, it’s always best to seek medical treatment to avoid further damage to the ear.

Consider Other Symptoms Associated with Ear Pain

When talking to an ENT about your ear pain, share as much information as possible about other symptoms you are experiencing. For example, if you have a fever and congestion associated with ear pain, it gives the doctor more information for an accurate diagnosis.

During your ENT visit, the doctor will ask about your current symptoms and health history. This information, paired with an examination and testing (if necessary), helps to uncover the underlying causes. Then an effective treatment plan can be implemented to help you find relief from your ear pain.

Call an ENT in Frisco or Plano, TX

If you have chronic or acute ear pain, it’s time to talk to an ENT in the Dallas area or Collin County. Our Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat team is here to assist. You can schedule an appointment at one of our nearby offices in Frisco or Plano, TX, using the online form. Call our office any time: (972) 596-4005.

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