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Ear pain (Earache) – Earache Symptoms & Causes

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What is an earache or ear pain?

Earache Symptoms & Causes

Earache is the pain felt in and around your ear. Medically, it is called otalgia. In this article, you will know everything about earache symptoms and earache causes with its diagnosis and treatment.

Ear pain generally develop due to a disease present within the ear, such as infection. Sometimes, the disease is located outside the ear but felt due to the transmission of pain from the affected part of the body, such as a tooth.

Earache may involve your one or both ears and may affect your ability to hear as well.

Earaches are very common among children; however, it can affect adults as well.

What are the Earache Symptoms?

Ear pain may themselves be symptoms of another problem like an infection or an injury. Therefore, earaches are generally accompanied by other earache symptoms like:


Earache Symptoms In adultsEarache Symptoms In children
• Ear discharge

• Impaired hearing

• Headache

• Sore throat or common cold

• Sense of fullness in the ear

• Tugging or pulling sensation in the ear

• Ear discharge

• Unclear hearing

• More irritable than usual

• Difficulty sleeping

• Fever

• Crying or acting irritable more than usual

• Avoiding food

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Earache Causes –

Well, after the Earache symptoms there are some earache causes that you should know, Ear pain may be caused due to a problem situated within the ear itself-termed as primary otalgia, e.g., infection or fluid within the ear.

It may be due to a condition in the other parts of the body transmitting the pain to the ear-called secondary otalgia.


Primary otalgia (primary ear pain):

Where the source of pain is within the ear- comprises the most common Earache Causes.

Infection of the middle ear- otitis media

Infection of the outer ear canal- otitis externa

Pressure changes on the eardrum- barotrauma, which occurs when you are in an airplane or diving deep into the water. This result due to rapid change in the atmospheric pressure causing stress on the eardrum.

Foreign body in ear canal- such as insect

Injury to ear


Secondary otalgia (secondary ear pain):

When the source of pain is outside the ear. It has some common Earache causes and some uncommon ones.

Common Earache causes originating outside ear

• Tooth problems- carries or abscess

• Jaw joint issues- Temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) pain due to trauma or degeneration

• Cervical spine problems- may radiate pain to ear

• Infection of the neck lymph nodes- may also refer pain

• Pharyngitis or Tonsillitis- swelling and infection of the tonsils in the throat

• Surgery of tonsils- sometimes causes pain in the ear.

• Acute parotitis- swelling of parotid gland situated just beneath the ear


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Uncommon Earache causes originating outside ear

• Tumors of close and distant organs- parotid, tongue, throat, esophagus, cervical spine.

• Pain of cranial nerves such as trigeminal neuralgia

• Bell’s palsy, where the facial nerve becomes swollen causing paralysis on one side of the face

• Temporal arteritis, where the temporal artery (artery present on temple) gets swollen

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How the doctors diagnose the cause of ear pain?

The diagnosis is usually made with the help of history taking and physical examination. This helps your doctor to find out if the source of pain is within the ear or outside.

After this, your doctor suggests some special examination or imaging tests according to the probable cause of pain.

What is the treatment of ear pain?

After the Earache causes and Earache symptoms you will be thinking about its treatment. The treatment that your doctor will recommend depends on the underlying cause of the earache.

Some of the prescribed treatments for common Earache causes are:

When should I see a doctor?

If you notice any of the following, you should seek medical consultation:

• A continuous fever of 104ºF or higher in you or your child.

• If an infant has a temperature higher than 101ºF, then you should get immediate medical help

• If you have a severe pain that stops suddenly – this is a symptom of eardrum rupturing

• Severe ear pain

• Drooping of the facial muscles

• Bad headache


• Blood or pus discharge from the ear

• Swelling around the ear

• If the earache increases or doesn’t improve even after 24 to 48 hours.


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