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Sore throat and earache

Symptoms, causes and treatment of glossopharyngeal neuralgia

Relationship between sore throat and earache: glossopharyngeal neuralgia

The ears, nose and throat are located close to each other and have different functions but are closely related. The ears and nose are sensory organs necessary for the sense of hearing, balance and smell.

Sore throat and earache symptoms

The throat plays a crucial role in facilitating the passage of food, liquids, and air to the respective destinations - the oesophagus and lungs. The ears and nose, on the other hand, are sensory organs responsible for hearing, balance, and smell. These organs are closely related, and as a result, it's not uncommon for individuals to experience sore throats and earaches simultaneously. When the back of the throat becomes inflamed due to viral or bacterial infection, it can lead to sore throat or pharyngitis, which in turn can cause earache.

Sore throat symptoms

Sore throat symptoms include pain while swallowing, coughing, burning sensation, and fever. While commonly associated with winter, sore throat can also be triggered by other factors like dry air, irritating vapours, allergies, smoking, colds and flu-like conditions.

Symptoms of earache

In cold and flu-like conditions, earaches are often accompanied by a sensation of a plugged ear. Transient tinnitus can also occur in these cases. The ear is a rather sensitive organ and changes in temperature can cause pain and inflammation.

Possible complications

Untreated chronic inflammation in the ear can spread to neighbouring areas, leading to more sever conditions, including but not limited to, meningitis or mastoiditis. Prolonged hearing loss from ear catarrh can also cause language development delays in children. In some cases, progressive deterioration of the ossicles may require emergency implant replacement. In isolated cases, mucus in the ears can have severe side effects, such as  the formation of retention sacs in the eardrum, resulting in a cholesteatoma, a tumour which require surgical removal.

What are the causes of sore throats and earaches?


Some of the most common symptoms of tonsillitis include sore throat, pain when swallowing, and earaches. Located between the mouth and pharynx, tonsils are susceptible to inflammation mainly due to viral and sometimes bacterial infections. Adenovirus and Rhinovirus are the most common triggers of tonsilitis, while the Streptococcus is the most common bacterial infection responsible for tonsillitis.


Throat and ear pain can be trigger by more than just microbial infections. Allergies can also cause a sore throat. Inflammation is usually the cause of pharyngeal pain, whether it is from infections or allergies that inflame the tissues of the pharynx.

Acid reflux

Sore throats can also be caused by acid reflux from the stomach, which can lead to laryngitis due to the burning sensation in the throat. This can result in dryness in the throat, bitterness in the mouth, and a dry cough. The inflammation in the pharyngeal mucosa causes reflux sore throat along with other symptoms such as difficulty swallowing and the sensation of a lump in the throat.


Sore throat and earache are common symptoms of mononucleosis, a viral inflammation that often affects adolescents and young adults. The acute phase of the disease is characterised by yellowish-white plaques on the tonsils, which can grow to a considerable size and make swallowing difficult.

Tooth Infection

Dental cavities and tooth infection can spread and lead to more severe conditions in the ears, nose, and throat. Infections that start in the mouth, such as those caused by dental caries, gingivitis, or periodontitis, can spread to the surrounding tissues and bones, causing inflammation and pain.


Sinusitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the mucous membrane lining the sinuses, the hollow cavities located in the bones around the nose, forehead, and cheekbones. Sinusitis can lead to other health issues, such as toothache and infections in the oral cavity. Located close to the teeth and gums, sinusitis can spread to neighbouring areas and lead to more serious conditions if left untreated.

Irritations & other possibilities

Sore throat and earache can be caused by irritations of the laryngopharyngeal tract, the area of the throat that connects the larynx (voice box) to the oesophagus. Irritations in this area can be caused by a variety of factors such as allergies, acid reflux, smoking, dry air, and even excessive use of the voice. The severity of the pain may vary depending on the underlying cause and individual factors.

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Definition of glossopharyngeal neuralgia

Glossopharyngeal neuralgia is characterized by recurring episodes of severe pain in the back of the throat, near the tonsils, the back of the tongue, part of the ear, and/or beneath the back of the jaw. While the cause is often unknown, in some cases, it results from an artery that is positioned abnormally and exerts pressure on the glossopharyngeal nerve.

This is a rare condition that is more common in men and typically develops after the age of 40. Treatment options that are effective for trigeminal neuralgia, such as anticonvulsant medications (carbamazepine, gabapentin, or phenytoin), baclofen, and tricyclic antidepressants, may also be helpful in managing glossopharyngeal neuralgia. However, surgery may be necessary for long-term relief. To alleviate the pressure on the glossopharyngeal nerve caused by the compressing artery, a small sponge is inserted between them via vascular decompression.

Ear and throat pain on one side

Ear and throat pain may occur only on one side of the body, and this phenomenon is not uncommon. The source of the discomfort is typically related to the location of inflammation. Inflammation in a specific area on one side of the body may cause pain to be localized exclusively to that side.

Ear and throat pain when swallowing

A sore throat, also known as pharyngitis, is caused by an inflammation of the pharynx. Pain while swallowing, also known as odynophagia, is one of the hallmark symptoms of pharyngitis. Located at the back of the mouth, the pharynx is a muscular-membranous canal that allows food to enter the oesophagus. Ear pain can be related to pharyngitis, if the infection causing the inflammation has spread to the ears. The Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the pharynx, can become inflamed and blocked during pharyngitis, leading to a build-up of pressure in the ear. This pressure can cause pain and discomfort and trigger other side effects, such as hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

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Natural remedies and medical treatment

There are several simple and effective remedies for sore throats and earaches, including the following:

  • Maintaining the right humidity level in the environment (between 40-60%)
  • Drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and keep mucous membranes in the throat and nasal passages moist, which can help prevent irritation and inflammation.
  • Using emollient sprays several times a day, as this can help speed up the healing process of sore throats
  • Gargling and rinsing with medical mouthwash

In addition to these remedies, getting plenty of rest is essential. If symptoms persist or worsen, it best to seek medical advice. 

Natural remedies

If you prefer natural remedies over traditional medicine, there are several options available to help alleviate symptoms. These remedies include:

  • Consuming one to two teaspoons of honey daily, as it has a soothing effect on inflamed mucous membranes
  • Using propolis, a bee product known for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Propolis is often available in liquid extract form.
  • Gargling with water and lemon or baking soda to help reduce inflammation and soothe sore throats.

When it comes to earaches, helichrysum essential oil can be helpful due to its sedative, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory properties. Melaleuca essential oil, on the other hand, has decongestant, antiseptic, bactericidal, and immunostimulant properties.

It is important to note that while natural remedies can be effective in relieving symptoms, they should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment. It is always recommended to consult  a hearing care professional if symptoms persist or worsen.

Medical treatments

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used in the treatment of sore throats due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Among the NSAIDs used, those belonging to the arylalkanoic acid group, including Flurbiprofen, Ketoprofen, and Ibuprofen, are particularly effective.

These active ingredients are available in various pharmaceutical formulations, such as oral sprays, pills or tablets that dissolve slowly in the mouth. Some of these medicines are available without a prescription as over-the-counter (OTC) or SOP (No Prescription Required) medicines. However, it is always advisable to seek medical advice before taking them.

When should you see a doctor?

It is crucial to seek medical advice if the symptoms persist or if the pain in the throat and ear worsens.

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