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Health news of the week: earache; Causes, symptoms, prevention and more.

Ear pain

What is an earache?

Earaches usually occur in children, but they can occur in adults as well. An earache may affect one or both ears, but the majority of the time it’s in one ear. It may be constant or come and go, and the pain may be dull, sharp, or burning.

If you have an ear infection, fever and temporary hearing loss may occur. Young children who have ear infections tend to be fussy and irritable. They may also tug or rub their ears.

Earache symptoms:

Earaches can develop from ear infections or injury. Symptoms in adults include:

ear pain

impaired hearing

fluid drainage from ear

Children can typically show additional symptoms, such as:

ear pain

muffled hearing or difficulty responding to sounds


sense of fullness in the ear

difficulty sleeping

tugging or pulling at the ear

crying or acting irritable more than usual


loss of appetite

loss of balance

What are the common causes of earaches?

Injury, infection, irritation in the ear, or referred pain may cause earaches. Referred pain is pain felt somewhere other than the infection or injured site. For example, pain that originates in the jaw or teeth may be felt in the ear. Causes of earaches can include:

Ear infections:

Ear infections are a common cause of earaches or ear pain. Ear infections can occur in the outer, middle, and inner ear.

Outer ear infection can be caused by swimming, wearing hearing aids or headphones that damage the skin inside the ear canal, or putting cotton swabs or fingers in the ear canal.

Skin in the ear canal that gets scratched or irritated can lead to infection. Water softens the skin in the ear canal, which can create a breeding ground for bacteria.

Middle ear infection can be caused by infections that stem from a respiratory tract infection. Fluid buildup behind the ear drums caused by these infections can breed bacteria.

Labyrinthitis is an inner ear disorder that’s sometimes caused by viral or bacterial infections from respiratory illnesses.

Other common causes of earaches:

change in pressure, such as when flying on a plane

earwax buildup

a foreign object in the ear

strep throat

sinus infection

shampoo or water trapped in the ear

use of cotton swabs in the ear

temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome

perforated eardrum

arthritis affecting the jaw

infected tooth

eczema in the ear canal

trigeminal neuralgia (chronic facial nerve pain)

Less common causes of earaches:

temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome

perforated eardrum

arthritis affecting the jaw

infected tooth

trigeminal neuralgia (chronic facial nerve pain)

Treating earaches at home:

You can take several steps at home to reduce earache pain. Try these options to ease the ear pain:

Apply a cold washcloth to the ear.

Avoid getting the ear wet.

Sit upright to help relieve ear pressure.

Use over-the-counter (OTC) ear drops.

Take OTC pain relievers.

Chew gum to help relieve pressure.

Feed an infant to help them relieve their pressure.

Medical treatment for earaches

If you have an ear infection, your doctor will prescribe oral antibiotics or eardrops. In some cases, they’ll prescribe both.

Don’t stop taking the medication once your symptoms improve. It’s important that you finish your entire prescription to ensure that the infection will clear up completely.

If a buildup of wax is causing your ear pain, you may be given wax-softening eardrops. They may cause the wax to fall out on its own. Your doctor may also flush out the wax using a process called ear lavage, or they may use a suction device to remove the wax.

Your doctor will treat TMJ, sinus infections, and other causes of earaches directly to improve your ear pain.

When to see a doctor:

If you or your child has a persistent fever of 104ºF (40 ºC) or higher, seek medical attention. For an infant, seek medical help immediately for a fever higher than 101ºF (38ºC). The Healthline FindCare tool can provide options in your area if you don’t already have a doctor.

You should also seek immediate medical attention if you have severe pain that stops suddenly. This could be a sign of the eardrum rupturing.

You should also watch for other symptoms. If any of the following symptoms appear, make an appointment with your doctor:

severe ear pain


bad headache

swelling around the ear

drooping of the facial muscles

blood or pus draining from the ear

You should also make an appointment with your doctor if an earache gets worse or doesn’t improve in 24 to 48 hours.

Preventing earaches:

Some earaches may be preventable. Try these preventive measures:

Avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Keep foreign objects out of the ear.

Dry the ears after swimming or bathing.

Avoid allergy triggers, such as dust and pollen.


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