Why does my ear hurt? The causes of earache

Last update on Jul, 14, 2020

Earache in adults and children

Ear pain is a condition that can occur in inner, middle or outer ear. The onset is not necessarily related to a specific disease or infection, so to find out the specific cause it is advisable that a specialist assess the earache, if necessary. The intensity of ear pain can range from very mild to very severe, mainly depending on the underlying cause.

What causes ear pain?

There are numerous potential causes. However, among the main causes of earache there is an ear inflammation that always causes discomfort: otitis and myringitis.

Apart from it, ear pain can also be caused by:

  • Different types of allergies.
  • Prolonged episodes of severe cough.
  • Various diseases of teeth and jaw.
  • Inflammation or closure of the Eustachian tube.
  • Obstruction of the ear canal due to fluids, foreign bodies or earwax.
  • Shingles
  • Inflammation of the parotid gland due to mumps.
  • Freezing of the auricle at very low temperatures.
  • Cancer conditions in near organs.
  • Drastic changes in atmospheric pressure.
  • Headache
  • Wearing headphones 

Causes of earache external to the ear

  • Diseases of the teeth or thermomandibular disorder
  • Diseases of the cervical spine
  • Tonsillitis or inflammation of the throat (pharyngitis)
  • Accumulation of pus near the tonsils
  • Diseases of the sinuses (sinusitis)
  • Tumors in the head and throat region
  • Inflammation of the nerves in the ear area

Causes of earache in the ear

  • Excessive earwab buildup: Earwax is needed to keep the ear canal clear and clean. However, overproduction can cause the ear canal to close, which in turn leads to hearing loss. Improper use of earphones can also cause earwax plugs. In both cases, the doctor must rinse the affected ear canal.
  • Inflammation of the external auditory canal: Doctors refer to otitis externa as inflammation of the skin that lines the external ear canal. This begins at the opening of the ear and leads to the eardrum. The external auditory canal is about 3.5 cm long and describes an S-shaped curvature, which ensures that the eardrum is not visible and protected from the outside.
  • Acute or chronic otitis media: Otitis Media is a painful pathology of the area behind the eardrum, caused by bacteria or viruses due to colds or tonsillitis. Very often infants and children up to three years of age are affected. The disease can also occur in older children and adults.

Earache due to eardrum injuries

Perforation of the eardrum is a lesion to the membrane which acts as a barrier between the outer part of the ear and the inner ear and has a decisive influence on hearing. Finally, the eardrum protects the ear against the entry of germs and transmits sound waves arriving at the middle ear. If you recognize the symptoms and start treatment in good time after the diagnosis by the experts, you can successfully prevent the consequential damage.

Earache due to barotrauma

Injury due to unfavorable pressure conditions, for example during diving or air travel.

Everyone knows the unpleasant sensation of pressure in the ears: driving a car in the mountains or during the take-off and landing phases of an airplane, it is the harmless consequence of the change in pressure. But sometimes the ear pressure lasts longer. It manifests itself through an annoying or painful sensation of pressure in the ear, through a sensation of "muffled hearing". If these disorders last longer and do not disappear by swallowing or yawning, it is possible that the pressure compensation in the ear is compromised or the ear is inflamed. In these cases it is good to contact an otolaryngologist who examines the problem and defines the most suitable therapy.

Ear pain due to water in ear

Everyone has experienced water trapped in the ears after a bath. Usually the annoying sensation disappears quickly, but sometimes the water remains in the ear. This can also cause ear infections.

Can toothache cause earache?

Toothache and ear pain can be linked. In fact, in some cases, for example when you have a dental infection of the wisdom teeth, you may also feel pain in the ear and throat. In these cases, you could almost run the risk of confusing tooth pain with another pathology. Precisely for this reason it is very important when you notice red gums to contact your dentist as soon as possible.

When you suffer from toothache and ear pain then the best thing to do is to contact your dentist to do an x-ray to confirm whether or not the problem originates from the teeth.


News & Blog

Catch up on the latest news and stories on hearing health.
Learn more

Get support and advice

Book a free hearing test

Book now

Test your hearing online

Take the test

Find your nearest store

Find a store