Ear Pain

When the unrelenting cruelty of ear pain begins, it’s usually a slow process. Perhaps you may experience a scratchy throat, or a little discomfort below the outside area of the ear between the throat, and the ear itself. The common causes of ear pain problems may be barely noticeable. However, when it becomes a serious infection, there is no way to ignore it. It is possible for the inner or outer ear to become infected. Without treatment, the consequences are far-reaching.

The causes of ear pain are viruses. Technically, the most commonly recognized ear pain is called OME (Otitis Media with Effusion).

Children contracting this ear problem will wine, or pull at the ear when it is infected because they are not always able to vocalize the problem. The earache is a painful infection that simply will not disappear, and should be treated with antibiotics.

Causes of Ear Pain

Ear Infections:

Infections of the middle ear (otitis media) and outer ear (otitis externa or swimmer’s ear) are common causes of ear pain.

A bacterium develops in this mucous creating pain in the ear. Sometimes if there is a sinus infection, a person can literally feel as if there ear is underwater. When the level of fluid is excessive in the ear, it can actually become difficult to hear. Ear infections occur most frequently in the winter months.

How to Spot Ear Infections:

  • Clogged hearing
  • Pressure
  • Drainage
  • Pain
  • Lack of balance

Pressure builds up in the ear preventing the circulation of blood to the area. This exasperates the pain and creates a lack of hearing, which can become intense. A person suffering from allergies or even a common cold can have fluid buildup in the ear. This fluid becomes infected, creating ear pain.

Earwax Buildup:

Excessive accumulation of earwax can lead to ear pain. When earwax becomes impacted, it can cause a blockage and discomfort in the ear canal.

Sinus Infections:

Sinus infections (sinusitis) can cause referred pain to the ears due to the close proximity of the sinuses and the ear canals. The pain is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as nasal congestion, facial pressure, and headache.

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction:

The Eustachian tubes connect the middle ear to the back of the throat, equalizing air pressure in the ears. Dysfunction of these tubes can cause ear pain, a feeling of fullness, and hearing difficulties. It can occur due to allergies, colds, sinus infections, or changes in altitude.

Trauma or Injury:

Injuries to the ear, such as a direct blow or insertion of a foreign object, can cause pain and damage to the ear structures.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder:

TMJ disorders affect the jaw joint, but they can also cause referred pain to the ears. The pain may be felt around the jaw, temples, and ears.

Dental Problems:

Certain dental conditions, including tooth abscesses, impacted wisdom teeth, or jaw infections, can cause pain that radiates to the ear.


Rapid changes in pressure, such as during air travel or scuba diving, can cause ear pain. The pressure difference can strain the eardrum and lead to discomfort.

Foreign Objects:

The presence of a foreign object in the ear, such as a small toy or an insect, can cause pain and discomfort.

Tumors and Growths:

Rarely, tumors or growths in the ear canal or middle ear can cause pain, hearing loss, and other symptoms.

A physician is able to assist patients in discriminating between chronic ear problems and acute ear problems. They are both treatable issues.

Types of Ear Pain


Chronic ear pain may display itself in poor balance, inability to immediately understand words, lack of focus, and problems reading or speaking.


Acute ear infections show up with immediate ear pain. It is less subtle in introducing itself. A person may experience fever, fluid leaking from the ear, an extremely sore throat, vomiting, or nausea. Pain is also caused by sensitivity to cold air hitting the ear.

Serious Ear Issues

Of all the ear maladies – bacterial meningitis, acute mastoiditis, facial paralysis, and a brain abscess is the most damaging, with the brain abscess being the most deadly.

Bacterial meningitis

A person is plagued by confusion, inability to rest, and delusions. It is treatable with 7 to 21 days of strong antibiotics given through an IV. These are some of the recognized signs:

  • Troubling headaches
  • High fever
  • Neck stiffness
  • Irritability
  • Altered mental state
  • Overall ill health

Acute Mastoiditis

This attacks the bone behind the ear known as the mastoid. Doctors clear the problem by using a drainage tube and antibiotics. A few things to notice concerning acute mastoiditis is:

  • Swelling behind the eyes
  • Headache
  • Oozing in the ear
  • Hearing problems
  • Puffiness behind the ear
  • Sore spots near the ear
  • Fever

Facial paralysis

Brought on by otitis media is facial paralysis. Fortunately, most recover. In addition, it only affects 1 in every 2000 earache sufferers. Signs:

  • Affected facial nerves
  • Pain at the rear of the ear
  • Decreased tears
  • Inability to blink
  • Altered speech/taste

Brain abscess

This is the worst possible scenario of ear infections. Pus gathers in a pocket of the brain. The body protects the area by surrounding it with a membrane. Unlike the skin, the head has no stretching ability, and the pus-filled space place pressure on other areas of the brain. Signs are:

  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • headache
  • Seizures

Affected Ear Pain Areas

Middle ear infections can bring about a few serious problems. According to Karen McQuaide, an audiologist from Princeton & Robbinsville, infections of the ear can cause hearing loss, tinnitus, mastoid bone infection, vertigo, meningitis, and burst eardrums. If the problem is mildly menacing, it may go ignored as a minor nuisance. However, a person may find they are falling more or hearing things less clearly. This may be due to a growing accumulation of fluid in the ear.


People treat ear pain with hydrogen peroxide and warm compresses. They gargle in an effort to clear up throat infections that might exacerbate the pain. However, the only true way to clear up ear infections is with antibiotics, which must be prescribed by a physician.

However, first, the cause and the place of infection must be diagnosed. Is it acute pain or chronic pain? In order to avoid doing damage to the parts of the ear and audiologist should be consulted. Even with the newest treatments, this infection can cause Brain abscesses, neurological complications, and meningitis.

When to Seek Assistance

Some people think nothing of placing objects into the ears. These objects may injure the ear. In addition, they may not be sterile. At home, treatments are sold over the counter for removing earwax. However, this is not a means for riding the ear of infection in all cases.

Unfortunately, infections of the ear can spread beyond the ear area. This is why contacting a skilled physician with the means to treat the infection effectively is best for health.