Ear pain or earache is when you experience a sharp, dull and burning pain in one or both of your ears. It is most commonly observed in only one ear at a time. The pain might be due to an infection or inflammation in the ear. You might think that earache can only occur in children, but it is not a fact. Even grown-up children and adults can get an earache but it is less common when compared to kids. Fever and a temporary hearing loss are often associated with an ear infection. But thankfully, in most cases, ear infection goes away on its own without any medication.
Adults with ear infection show symptoms such as pain in the ear, fluid draining from the ear and improper hearing ability. Where the symptoms may vary in kids. Besides the symptoms of the adults, kids can show other symptoms like fever, headache, vertigo, discomfort or fullness in the ear, itching, sore throat, jaw pain, ringing in the ear, crying or getting irritated, difficulty to sleep, pulling at the ear, loss of appetite and loss of balance along with swelling and redness of the outer ear. Although these symptoms show up depending upon the cause of the ear pain. So let us get to know some of these causes.
Here are some of the common causes of earaches in people of all age groups.
- Build up of wax in the ear
- The entry of any foreign object
- Change in the air pressure (while on an airplane or any fun rides)
- Using cotton swabs in ears
- Water in the ear
- Any form of shampoo or soap in the ear
- Strep throat
Apart from these causes, there are other causes but are less common when compared to the above ones. Some of them are cavities in the teeth, eczema in the ear, chronic pain or the facial nerves (also called trigeminal neuralgia), perforated eardrum, arthritis of the jaw and TMJ (temporomandibular joint) syndrome. Mastoiditis, tonsillitis, pharyngitis, tinnitus and thyroid inflammation may also cause ear pain sometimes.
These aside, ear infections are the prime cause of ear pain. They can possibly occur in the inner, middle and the outer ear. An inner ear infection can be due to a disorder called labyrinthitis, that causes bacterial and viral infections from respiratory illness. The middle ear infection can be caused due to a build-up of fluid in the eardrums which can lead to the growth of bacteria or due to any respiratory tract infection. Whereas the outer ear infections are mostly due to swimming, hearing aids like headphones, earphones, etc. the ear canal gets irritated and bacteria grow leading to an infection.
As said earlier, ear pain goes on its own in most cases but there are a few remedies one can follow at home to lower the frequency of the pain.
- Drink a lot of water and stay hydrated because humidity can lead to sinus and therefore ear pain
- Use a few drops of warm olive oil to soothe your war pain. However, people who have a ruptured eardrum should not practice this.
- A cool compress can be helpful. Soak a washcloth in cool water, drain the fluid and keep in on the paining ear. You might notice a difference in the pain.
- You can try a warm compress if you do not get relieved from the pain with a cold compress. Do the same, but use hot water instead.
- Chewing gum can help you lower your pressure in case your ear pain is due to high altitudes while you are on a flight.
- Instead of lying on your bend, rest by staying upright so that the fluid in your ear can drain out.
- You can use over the counter ear drops to ease the pain.
- Over the counter medications like acetaminophen, naproxen and ibuprofen can aid in dealing with the ear pain especially when it fever is associated with it.
- Other herbal oils can be put to use as natural pain relievers.
- Oxymetazoline or Afrin nasal spray can be used if your earache is due to sinusitis.
- If they are not available try a nasal spray of saltwater as it has no side effects and can be used more frequently.
However, if your ear pain lasts longer than 3 days or you see any other signs like blood or pus from the ear, dizziness, unbearable pain, drooping facial muscles or swelling around your ear, you should consult your doctor immediately if your child has a prolonged fever of 104 F along with ear pain, you should go to the doctor immediately. If you notice that you had severe pain and it suddenly stopped, seek immediate medical attention as there is a chance of ruptured eardrum.