Ear pain is a common but serious condition in small children.
Pre-schoolers who have earaches pull their ears, let their parents know about their pain, have trouble focusing on activities that are important to them, have trouble sleeping, and become generally cranky. When serious ear infections are left untreated for an extended time, loss of hearing and all the developmental problems associated with it may appear.
Older children, teens, and adults of all ages can also experience ear pain. Pain in one or both ears may originate in the ears or in some other part of the body, and accurately diagnosing the underlying cause of ear pain may require diagnosis by a hearing professional.
Let's take a look at ten common causes of ear pain.
Otitis media is a technical term for a group of conditions that cause inflammation in the middle ear.
Acute otitis media is a kind of earache that comes on quickly during or after a bout with a cold, a sinus infection, or the flu. Germs from the nose and throat find their way to the middle ear through the Eustachian tubes. Once they arrive at the middle ear, either the immune system tries to kill them by generation inflammation, or sometimes (as in the case of strep infections), the bacteria themselves release irritating compounds. Treating acute otitis media is largely a matter of fighting infection.
Otitis media with effusion usually causes a feeling of stuffiness in the ears without pain. Chronic suppurative otitis media is an infection that results in drainage from the ear for more than three months. All three kinds of otitis media can cause hearing loss that interferes with school and social development.
Outer ear infections
Have you ever heard of swimmer's ears? Sometimes swimmers who don't dry out their ears get a bacterial infection from the water in which they swim. There are beaches in tropical locations where many swimmers come down with this kind of ear infection.
Outer ear infections can also occur after skin damage. Wearing headphones that are too tight, or using hearing aids that aren't fitted very well, or using too much pressure when cleaning the ear canal with a Q-tip swab can all damage the skin of the outer ear and invite infection.
Infections after sore throats, colds, flu, and strep are the most common source of ear pain, but they are hardly the only causes of near pain.
Other common and not-so-common causes of ear pain
There is a long list of possible causes of pain that affects one or both ears. Here are just a few of the reasons your ears may hurt.
- Changes in air pressure. If you have ever developed an earache just as your plane was touching the ground for its landing, the likely cause was the change in ear pressure. If you don't swallow as your plane is landing, pressure in your ear canals and in your Eustachian tubes can build up and cause pain. This kind of ear pain usually goes away in just a few minutes after arriving at the destination airport, but it sometimes continues for hours or even days.
- Earwax buildup. People who get their first ear, nose, and throat checkup in their adult lives are sometimes amazed by how much wax the doctor removes from their ears. Removing ear wax isn't something you should attempt at home. Trying to dig out ear wax with a cotton swab can just force it deeper into your ears.
- Foreign objects in the ears. If you work with saws and sanders, or you operate a rider mower, or you live in a location that gets dust and sandstorms, there is a heightened likelihood that you will pick up a foreign object in your ears. If the tiny invader into your ear canal has rough edges, you may develop an infection that causes pain and drainage. A good sign that your ear pain isn't due to a foreign object is pain in both ears.
- Perforated eardrum. A perforation is a tiny hole in the eardrum. It is not a common problem, but it can result from extreme changes in pressure, such as coming up too fast after diving, or a blow to the ear, or extremely loud noises, or sticking something in your ear canal, like the previously mentioned Q-tip. Perforations of the ear drums may heal themselves in just a few weeks if they don't get infected. Avoiding infection means making sure you don't get water in your ear. Sometimes surgery is necessary to repair perforations that don't heal on their own.
- Dental problems. Impacted teeth, infected gums, and arthritis of the jaw can all cause pain to the referred to one or both ears. Treating the dental issue resolves this kind of ear pain. Dental problems aren't usually the cause of ear pain.
- Chronic conditions like temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), neuralgia, and even migraine can cause ear pain.
There are things you can do to minimize ear pain on your own.
There are lots of home remedies for ear pain.
Chewing gum is a great way to equalize pressure inside your ear canals with the air pressure surrounding you. Sitting up rather than lying down also relieves ear pressure. Applying a cold washcloth (but not an ice pack) can relieve pain from infections of the outer ear and applying a warm (never hot!) compress to the outer ear sometimes relieves inflammatory pain in the middle ear.
Over the counter pain relievers are fine for short-term pain relief, if you don't have some other condition that keeps you from taking them (like using certain kinds of blood thinners, allergies to aspirin, and gastroesophageal reflux disease). Some people get quick short-term relief from acupressure.
But most of the time you will get well faster after you get an accurate assessment by a hearing professional.
Get help for your ear pain today.
Harbor Audiology serves, Sequim, Silverdale, Tacoma, Gig Harbor, Port Angeles, and Bainbridge Island. We will help you get the most from insurance and VA benefits, and we have evening and weekend hours for your convenience. Harbor Audiology has the experts you need to determine the precise cause of your ear pain so you can get the relief you need. Request your appointment online today!
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Originally published on Live Positively.