Man holding his left ear in pain

Ear pain can show up suddenly and for no clear reason, which can make it a very frustrating type of pain to experience. Although earaches are especially common in children, they occur regularly in adults as well. But, if you have an idea of why your ear is hurting, you’ll be better equipped to treat the issue and avoid worrying unnecessarily.

Common Causes of Ear Pain

Ear pain can have many causes, but there are a few that are more common than others. Usually, an earache will be caused by one of the following:

  • Swimmer’s ear (infection of the outer ear canal)
  • Buildup or hardening of earwax
  • Change in air pressure
  • Fluid trapped in the ear tubes
  • Upper respiratory infection or illness
  • Extremely loud noise
  • Sinus infection
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
  • Injury to the head or jaw

When Should You Seek Medical Care for Ear Pain?

When you experience unexplained ear pain, it can be hard to decide whether or not seeing a doctor is necessary. In many cases, ear pain will fade on its own within a few days. However, if any of the following symptoms accompany your ear discomfort, you should seek medical care.

  • Fever or other symptoms of an infection
  • Discharge coming from your ear
  • Minor hearing loss or ringing in ears
  • Increased pain when blowing your nose or wiggling your earlobe
  • Ear pain that remains for more than two days

In rare cases, ear pain could be a sign of something serious that requires emergency care. You should go to the emergency room immediately if you experience any of these symptoms with your ear pain:

  • Bleeding from the ears
  • High fever
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Major hearing loss
  • Dizziness
  • Stiff neck
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Pain that’s worsening significantly
  • Ear pain shortly after a head or ear injury

These symptoms could indicate a serious condition, such as a brain injury, a ruptured eardrum, or a spreading infection. In these situations, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and seek emergency medical treatment.

How To Relieve Ear Pain?

Even if your ear pain doesn’t seem serious enough to require medical attention, it’s still no fun to experience. Fortunately, there are a few things you can try that may be effective for alleviating the discomfort in your ear.

  • Applying a cold compress or warm heating pad to and around your ear
  • Chewing gum
  • Taking over-the-counter ear drops or pain medication
  • Stretching your neck
  • Sleeping in an upright position

What Is the Takeaway?

Although ear pain is often minor, it’s important to know the differences between ear pain you can safely ignore and ear pain that requires medical attention. If the discomfort lasts for more than two days or is accompanied by more worrisome symptoms, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. When you need an ENT doctor in the greater Houston area, you can count on receiving the best treatment available from the team of ENT specialists at Texas ENT.


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