Learn what causes earaches and ear pain treatments that can help.
Ear pain can be uncomfortable, disorienting, and stressful. If you aren’t familiar with common ear pain causes, you may be unsure of what’s going on and what kind of ear pain treatment you need.
Let’s go over some common ear pain causes so you can track down the source of that earache and seek out treatment:
- Ear infection
- Earwax buildup
- Air pressure
- Trapped object or water
- Strep throat
- Sinus infections
- Teeth issues
Of course, if you have concerns about any pain or issues you’re experiencing, it’s best to check with your doctor or audiologist. Let’s look into these ear pain causes and potential ear pain treatment options to explore!
Various kinds of ear infections are some of the most common ear pain causes. For example, it may be a “swimmer’s ear” infection of the outer ear canal, a middle ear infection caused by a bacteria or virus, or an inflammation of the inner ear. Sometimes, ear infections resolve within a few days, and no further ear pain treatment is needed. However, it’s important to see a doctor if your ear pain is joined by a fever, fluid leaking from the ear, or hearing loss.
An earwax blockage can also be a surprising source of ear pain and reduced hearing ability. It can be difficult to tell on your own whether earwax has built up since it happens inside your ear, so you will want to see a doctor or audiologist to confirm it. They can also help with wax removal since they have better tools and the knowledge to safely navigate your delicate ears.
Airplane ear is a real thing, and it’s caused by sudden changes in air pressure. It’s normal for symptoms like ear pain and stuffiness to happen during the flight and last for a little while after landing. However, if airplane ear lasts longer than that, contact your doctor.
Trapped object or water
Even if it hasn’t caused swimmer’s ear, having water (or anything else) trapped in the ear can cause discomfort. Here are some tips for getting water out of your ear before it has the chance to cause an infection. If you have another object stuck in the ear (or your child’s ear), only attempt to pull it out yourself if you can easily see it and grasp it with tweezers. If you can’t remove it yourself without the risk of pushing it further in, visit a doctor to remove the object.
The symptoms of strep throat don’t always stay in the throat; it can also be associated with ear pain or fullness. Since it’s a bacterial infection, it can potentially spread and cause an ear infection, so make sure to inform your doctor if you’re having ear pain along with strep.
Similarly, sinus infections occur in the general area of the ears and face, so it makes sense that these are connected. Specifically, sinus infections can cause fluid to get trapped behind the eardrum, which can lead to an ear infection. Your doctor can recommend what sinus and ear pain treatment to use for this. It could include antibiotics, warm compresses, pain relievers, decongestants, etc.
If you have osteoarthritis or other disorders affecting the temporomandibular joints (TMJs), the pain can quickly spread all around your jaws and ears. Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause issues like tinnitus and hearing loss in older adults. Talk to your doctor about the best methods to relieve pain.
Tooth infections are no joke. The pain from an infected, broken, or decayed tooth can spread all around the head, including your ears. Teeth grinding and gum disease can be other dental-related ear pain causes. Visit your dentist if you suspect this is the culprit behind your ear pain; they can recommend a treatment like a root canal or wearing a protective night guard.
Since certain ear pain causes, like infections, can lead to hearing loss if untreated, you shouldn’t take them lightly! With the approval of your doctor, you can try some ear pain home remedies for relief, like compresses, heating pads, ear drops, and changing your sleeping position. Let a medical professional know if your symptoms haven’t improved within 24-48 hours.