Ear and jaw pain

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Jaw and ear pain at the same time

Ear and jaw pain are frequently experienced together, causing significant discomfort. Identifying the underlying cause is crucial to prevent complications and to avoid that the discomfort lingers for too long.  Below, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and effective treatments for ear and jaw pain.

Causes of ear and jaw pain

There are multiple factors that can contribute to jaw and ear pain, with some connection to the proximity of these body parts and the shared physical structures. Timely medical intervention plays a crucial role in identifying the root cause and preventing prolonged discomfort.

TMJ dysfunction

Jaw and ear pain often stem from issues with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), a hinge connecting the jaw to the skull. Various factors can contribute to this pain, such as teeth grinding, misalignment between the jaw and teeth, muscle injuries, and even arthritis. These conditions can cause discomfort and require attention to alleviate the symptoms.

Sternocleidomastoid pain

Ear and jaw pain can also be attributed to sternocleidomastoid pain. The sternocleidomastoid muscle, situated in the lateral anterior region of the neck, runs from the sternal head to the clavicular head, hence its name. Discomfort arising from sternocleidomastoid pain is typically experienced in the lateral neck area and may lead to symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, neck stiffness, and jaw pain, which can radiate to the ear.

Infections of the mouth or ears

Pain in both the mouth and ear can be caused by infections that originate in either region and subsequently radiate to the other. When an ear infection occurs, it can result in pain in and around the ear, as well as behind it. Additionally, the infection may spread to the jaw and sinuses, often accompanied by gum swelling or dental pain. If the pain extends to the jaw, it indicates an escalation of the infection, requiring immediate medical intervention to address the situation promptly.

Jaw injuries

Jaw injuries, such as fractures or strains to the surrounding muscles, can result in pain that extends to the ear. If you experience auditory discomfort following a fall, accident, or head trauma, the latter could be the underlying cause. It is best to inform your healthcare provider or seek immediate medical attention at the emergency room for a thorough examination and treatment.


Sinusitis refers to the inflammation of the sinuses, which can lead to ear and jaw pain in more severe cases. The primary cause is the obstruction of drainage channels due to swollen mucous membranes. This swelling occurs as a result of mucus build-up in the nasal cavities, causing pain throughout the affected area. Sinusitis typically occurs alongside varying degrees of cold symptoms or in association with allergies, rather than as an isolated condition.

Eustachian tube dysfunction

Conditions affecting the Eustachian tube, the passage connecting the middle ear to the nasopharynx, can contribute to both jaw and ear pain. The impacted region includes the upper throat and the back of the nasal cavity. Consequently, inflammation in this area can lead to pain that extends to the surrounding regions, potentially affecting the jaw and ears.

Dental problems and teeth grinding

Jaw and ear pain can be attributed to dental issues and complications within the oral cavity. Conditions such as cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease are all results of inadequate oral hygiene. If left untreated, these conditions can promote bacterial growth and lead to potentially severe bacterial infections. Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can also cause pain not only in the affected area but can radiate to the ear due to the friction between the dental arches and soreness in the chewing muscles. In such cases, accompanying symptoms can aid physicians in pinpointing the problem and determining the most suitable treatment approach.

Rheumatoid or osteoarthritis

Arthritis is an inflammatory condition that primarily affects the joints, leading to pain, swelling, and stiffness. It can also impact the connective tissues. There are different types of arthritis, including degenerative (such as osteoarthritis) and autoimmune (like rheumatoid arthritis). These conditions can cause widespread pain, including in the ears and jaw. Temporomandibular osteoporosis, a subtype of degenerative arthritis, involves the progressive deterioration of cartilage and temporomandibular tissues, eventually affecting the jawbone. On the other hand, autoimmune arthritis conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis target joint tissues and disrupt the immune system's functioning.

Glossopharyngeal neuralgia

Find out more about the relationship between ear, nose and throat.

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Symptoms of jaw and ear pain

Jaw and ear pain manifest in various symptoms that are specific to the affected area and those in close proximity. When undergoing a medical examination, providing a comprehensive list of these symptoms can assist in identifying the root cause and enable prompt intervention.

Jaw pain

Jaw pain impacts the teeth, surrounding tissues, and the temporomandibular joint, which serves as the connection between the jaw and skull bones. The severity of this pain can vary, ranging from mild discomfort to significantly debilitating levels.

Ear pain

Earaches, also known as otalgia in medical terminology, can exhibit a range of intensities, spanning from mild discomfort to persistent, intermittent, pulsating, rhythmic, or even severe and excruciating pain. The severity and intensity of an earache depends on the underlying cause. It is not solely limited to ear-related conditions but can also result from disorders affecting anatomically adjacent organs or areas, such as the nose, mouth, head, and throat. Conditions like sinusitis, tonsillitis, colds, toothache, migraines, and sore throat can contribute to ear pain.

Jaw stiffness

Mandibular stiffness is a common symptom of temporomandibular disorders (TMD), along with headaches and a clicking sound during jaw movement or the locking of affected joints. In some cases, the stiffness may extend beyond the jaw, reaching the neck and causing discomfort in the arms, dizziness, and ear pain. Additionally, jaw stiffness can make it challenging to open the mouth, impacting daily activities like eating and speaking.


Headache, medically known as cephalalgia, refers to localised pain experienced in the head or upper neck. The exact mechanisms triggering and involving pain-sensitive structures are not yet fully understood. Headaches are categorised into two main types:

  • primary headaches, which typically arise without an identifiable underlying cause and are influenced by genetic predisposition, internal factors, triggering elements, or trauma;
  • secondary headaches, on the other hand, are nonspecific symptoms associated with diverse conditions and can originate from various causes.

Pain when chewing or biting

Chewing pain is characterised by persistent discomfort felt in the temples, around the ear, cheeks, and extending to the neck. It is commonly associated with temporomandibular disorders, often stemming from trigeminal nerve inflammation, and accompanied by clicking or popping sounds in the jaw joint while chewing. The causes of this condition can include arthritis, osteoarthritis, bruxism (teeth grinding), as well as otitis, sinusitis, and periodontitis, among others. Identifying the underlying cause is crucial for effective management. In mild cases, anti-inflammatories and hot or cold compresses can provide relief. If it coincides with bruxism, using a mouthguard or bite splint can help alleviate pressure on the jaw, consequently reducing pain.

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Diagnosis of jaw and ear pain

When experiencing jaw and ear pain, it is important to consult with a physician or a specialist for proper diagnosis. Seeking medical attention is particularly crucial if there are signs of infection, such as fever and swelling, if the pain follows an injury, or if the symptoms persist despite treatment. If the pain becomes unbearable, it is essential to contact a healthcare professional promptly. In such severe cases, it may be best to seek immediate care at a hospital facility.

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Treatment options

Treatment options for jaw and ear pain varies depending on the underlying diagnosis. If it is a result of a temporomandibular disorder, it typically resolves without specific treatment. However, in all other cases or if there is uncertainty about the cause, it is advisable to consult with a primary care physician or a specialist to assess the situation and determine the most suitable therapy.

  • Relaxing the muscles by massaging or applying hot or cold compresses to affected areas can provide relief.
  • Jaw stretching exercises, along with maintaining proper oral hygiene to minimise the presence of oral bacteria, can also be beneficial.
  • Consuming soft foods that require less chewing effort can alleviate discomfort.
  • Managing stress levels is always helpful in managing jaw and ear pain.

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Can hearing aids help with the pain?

Hearing aids do not directly impact ear and jaw pain. However, consulting with a hearing care professional or specialist can be beneficial to identify the most suitable sound therapy or to adjust an existing treatment, particularly if tinnitus accompanies the pain. Scheduling a consultation serves as the initial step towards pain relief, enhancing your quality of life, and improving your hearing experience.

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