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Why Is My Ear Hurting Me? 5 Things To Know!

Last Updated on May 9, 2023 by Nurse Vicky

Why Is My Ear Hurting Me? 5 Things To Know!

The question, why is my ear hurting me? There are several possible causes of this problem.

Common causes include Meniere’s disease, TMJ disorders, and a foreign body in the ear canal.

Fortunately, many of these issues can be treated at home. For severe cases, however, you should seek medical attention.

The pain may be related to a more serious condition in some cases. If the pain is very severe or persists, you may need to visit a doctor for a diagnosis.

Ear pain is a common issue affecting people of all ages. Understanding the potential causes and treatments can help you take the necessary steps to alleviate the discomfort.

This comprehensive guide will delve into five common reasons behind ear pain and provide essential information on prevention and treatment.

Meniere’s disease.

how the ear works

The symptoms of Meniere’s disease include ear pain, ear pressure, and a decreased balance response.

The ear pain usually lasts long, and its onset is unpredictable. This condition is also associated with loss of hearing and significant general balance problems.

Fortunately, there are several home remedies for Meniere’s that can reduce symptoms. Read on to learn more.

You’ll also discover some common causes of Meniere’s disease and some tips for treating it.

The symptoms of Meniere’s disease typically appear during the fifth decade of life, although they may also develop in young adults or elderly people.

Males and females are equally susceptible to the disease. In some cases, genetics plays a role. Genetic tests have revealed a link between a person’s hearing loss and Meniere’s disease.

A family history of the disease has also been linked to the development of Meniere’s disease.

Ear Infections


Infections are among the most frequent causes of ear pain. There are two main types of ear infections: middle ear infections and outer ear infections.

Middle Ear Infections (Otitis Media)


Middle ear infections, also known as otitis media, occur when bacteria or viruses infiltrate the middle ear, causing inflammation and pain.

Common symptoms include earache, fever, fluid drainage, and hearing loss. Otitis media is more prevalent in children due to their immature immune systems and the smaller size of their Eustachian tubes.

TMJ Disorders


maj. jamie swartz, an ear nose and throat surgeon, - nara & dvids public domain archive public domain image

Sharp pain in the ear may indicate a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.

TMJ is the joint that connects the jaw and the skull. It can be triggered by grinding your teeth, recent orthodontic work, or arthritis.

If the pain is accompanied by other symptoms, it may be a sign of TMJ. However, if the pain is persistent or occurs on a regular basis, you should consult a doctor.

Earache is often a symptom of a serious illness, such as a sinus infection or TMJ. However, the pain can also result from a complication that doesn’t involve the ear.

Trauma to the head or jaw can also cause ear pain. Traumatic injuries can cause pain in the ear, especially if the eardrum is stretched.

Similarly, the ear can be affected by tooth decay in the back molars, temporomandibular joint pain, or TMJ syndrome.

Outer Ear Infections (Swimmer’s Ear)


Outer ear infections, or swimmer’s ears, are the result of bacterial growth in the outer ear canal. They often occur after swimming or showering, as trapped water in the ear creates a moist environment conducive to bacterial growth.

Symptoms include pain, redness, swelling, and itching in the affected ear. Treatment typically involves antibiotic ear drops and keeping the ear dry.

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction


The Eustachian tubes connect the middle ear to the back of the throat, helping to regulate pressure and drain fluid. Dysfunction occurs when these tubes become blocked or do not open properly, leading to pain, pressure, and hearing difficulties.

Common causes include allergies, colds, and sinus infections. Treatment options range from over-the-counter decongestants to prescription medications or surgical intervention in severe cases.

Foreign Body In The Ear Canal.


a child receives an ear exam as part of an overall health … | flickr

When a foreign body gets trapped in the ear, it can irritate and eventually cause damage. Most foreign bodies are placed by the person who has them.

Children are particularly susceptible to this condition. Ear wax and cellular debris can also cause foreign bodies to get trapped in the ear canal.

Excessive use of cotton swabs can push the wax and cellular debris deeper into the ear canal, pressing on the eardrum.

An otolaryngologist will be able to remove the foreign body if it’s large enough to be seen through a microscope.

In some cases, an uncooperative child may need to be sedated to be taken to the doctor. Once the foreign body is removed, it’s unlikely to cause any further damage to the ear

However, if the foreign body is too large or hard to reach, a more invasive method might be necessary.

Middle Ear Infection.

The best way to diagnose a middle ear infection is to visit a doctor.

A doctor can examine the eardrum using a special instrument called an otoscope. This instrument has a magnifying lens and light that will show the fluid behind the eardrum.

The ear should move when the otoscope is placed in the middle ear. If the otoscope shows fluid, the condition is an infection.

Other reasons for ear pain include allergies, colds, or sinus infections. When allergies occur, they can irritate the middle ear tubes, causing fluid to build up.

The fluid can lead to an infection and pain. People who suffer from chronic illnesses are more likely to get an ear infection than those who do not.

While it is common for both children and adults to experience pain, the symptoms of an ear infection are less visible in infants.

Tempromandibular Joint Disorder.

what causes the ear to bleed? | the house institute | blog


Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is a common cause of ear pain.

This joint connects the jaw to the skull and is responsible for chewing, swallowing, and speaking.

When this joint becomes irritated, it can lead to a range of problems. Inflammation of the joint can cause the Eustachian tubes to become blocked, affecting hearing.

During a painful episode, pain signals in the jaw joint are transmitted to the brain.

The brain then causes the affected body to react to the pain signal by contracting the muscles surrounding the joint.

If you experience pain in your jaw, it could be related to TMJ. If you suffer from pain in this area, your doctor will likely recommend an X-ray or a joint MRI.

He or she will also examine your bite and look for missing or unusual teeth. In some cases, X-rays and CT scans of the jaw may be necessary to diagnose TMJ.

Your doctor may also order magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look for any problems in your jaw or disc.

Earwax Buildup and Impaction 

Earwax (cerumen) is a natural substance produced by the ear to protect and lubricate the ear canal. However, excessive buildup or impaction can lead to discomfort, pain, and temporary hearing loss.
Symptoms of earwax impaction include a feeling of fullness in the ear, tinnitus, and dizziness. Treatment involves the safe removal of earwax by a healthcare professional, either through irrigation or manual extraction using specialized tools.


Foreign Objects in the Ear


Inserting foreign objects into the ear, such as cotton swabs or small toys, can cause pain and potential injury to the ear canal or eardrum. Symptoms include pain, hearing loss, and inflammation.

If you suspect a foreign object is lodged in your ear, avoid trying to remove it yourself, as this can cause further damage. Instead, consult a healthcare professional for proper removal.



Barotrauma refers to the pain and discomfort experienced when there is a difference in pressure between the external environment and the middle ear.

Common situations that cause barotrauma include flying, scuba diving, or driving at high altitudes. Symptoms include ear pain, a feeling of fullness in the ear, and temporary hearing loss.

To prevent barotrauma, practice equalizing techniques such as yawning, swallowing, or using the Valsalva maneuver during pressure changes.

Other Causes of Ear Pain


While the previous sections covered the most common causes of ear pain, several other conditions can lead to discomfort.

These include:

  • Ear injuries or trauma
  • Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis affecting the ear
  • Dental issues, such as toothaches or gum infections
  • Tumors or growths in the ear or surrounding areas
  • Nerve-related pain, such as trigeminal neuralgia

How to Treat and Prevent Ear Pain


Depending on the cause of your ear pain, treatment options will vary. In general, you can take the following steps to alleviate discomfort and prevent future occurrences:

  1. Practice good ear hygiene: Keep your ears clean and dry, but avoid using cotton swabs or inserting anything into the ear canal.
  2. Treat underlying conditions: Address allergies, sinus infections, or dental issues that may contribute to ear pain.
  3. Use over-the-counter pain relievers: Non-prescription medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can provide temporary relief.
  4. Apply a warm compress: Place a warm, damp cloth over the affected ear for 15-20 minutes to help alleviate pain.
  5. Protect your ears during pressure changes: Equalize pressure during activities like flying or diving to prevent barotrauma.
  6. Consult a healthcare professional: Seek medical help if your symptoms worsen or persist to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

When to Seek Medical Help


While mild ear pain may resolve on its own, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe or worsening pain
  • High fever
  • Swelling or redness around the ear
  • Fluid or pus drainage from the ear
  • Hearing loss or ringing in the ears
  • Dizziness or balance problems

These symptoms may indicate a more serious condition requiring prompt medical attention.


1 What can cause sudden ear pain?


Sudden ear pain may result from an ear infection, barotrauma, foreign objects, or a change in pressure due to activities like flying or diving. If the pain persists or worsens, consult a healthcare professional.

2 Can ear pain be a sign of a more serious condition?


While most ear pain is due to common issues like infections or earwax buildup, severe or persistent pain could indicate a more serious condition. Seek medical help if you experience additional symptoms like high fever, swelling, or hearing loss.

3 How can I prevent ear infections?


To prevent ear infections, practice good ear hygiene, keep your ears dry, avoid inserting objects into your ears, and treat underlying conditions like allergies or sinus infections that may contribute to ear problems.

4 Why do children seem to have more ear infections than adults?


Children are more prone to ear infections due to their developing immune systems and the smaller size of their Eustachian tubes, which makes them more susceptible to blockage.

5 Can ear pain be caused by a toothache?


Yes, dental issues like toothaches or gum infections can cause referred pain in the ear due to the close proximity of nerves in the face and jaw.

6 How can I safely clean my ears?


To clean your ears safely, gently wipe the outer part of your ear with a damp washcloth. Avoid using cotton swabs or inserting anything into the ear canal, as this can push earwax further in or cause injury.

7 Why does my ear hurt when I swallow?


Ear pain when swallowing could be due to Eustachian tube dysfunction, as the act of swallowing helps equalize pressure in the middle ear. Infections or inflammation in the throat may also cause referred pain in the ear.

8 Is it normal to have ear pain after using headphones or earbuds?


While occasional discomfort from wearing headphones or earbuds may be normal, persistent ear pain could indicate that the volume is too high, the fit is too tight, or there is an underlying issue like an infection or earwax buildup.

9 Can cold weather cause ear pain?


Cold weather can cause ear pain by constricting blood vessels in the ear and making the skin more sensitive. To prevent cold-induced ear pain, wear appropriate ear protection like earmuffs or a warm hat when outdoors in cold temperatures.

10 How long does it take for ear pain to go away?


The duration of ear pain depends on the cause and the treatment. For mild cases, ear pain may resolve within a few days. However, more severe or persistent cases may require medical intervention and can take longer to heal.


Ear pain can result from various causes, including infections, Eustachian tube dysfunction, TMJ, earwax buildup, and foreign objects. Understanding the underlying cause and seeking appropriate treatment can help you find relief and prevent future occurrences. Consult a healthcare professional if you experience severe or persistent ear pain.




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