Earache: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosed, and Home Remedies

Earache - Symptoms Causes Diagnosed and Home Remedies - ER of Dallas

Earaches may occur in one or both of your ears. But typically, it only affects one ear. The pain might be sporadic or persistent, and it can be mild, intense, or burning.

An ear infection might result in temporary hearing loss and fever. Tiny children who have ear infections may act clingy and agitated. They may even give them a tug or rub.

For more symptoms, causes, solutions, and details, keep reading.

What Is Earache?

Earache, also known as otalgia, refers to pain or discomfort in the ear, which can result from various causes. Infections, such as otitis media or otitis externa, can lead to inflammation and fluid buildup in the ear, causing pain. Blockages in the ear canal, like earwax impaction or foreign objects, may also contribute to discomfort. Injuries to the ear, changes in air pressure, temporomandibular joint disorders, sinus infections, dental issues, and problems with the Eustachian tubes are among the diverse factors that can cause earaches. If individuals experience persistent or severe ear pain, seeking evaluation and guidance from a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment is crucial. Self-diagnosis and treatment may not be effective and could potentially worsen the condition.

What Is Earache - ER of Dallas

Earaches, or ear discomfort, are among the most common reasons we take our children to the doctor.  We go to the doctor because our ears hurt. Earaches might indicate an ear infection or a hidden medical condition. Rarely can ear pain or earache signify a severe medical condition. The cause determines the treatment plan.

Who’s Affected By Earache?

Almost anybody can have ear pain. On the other hand, ear pain is more common in younger children than in adults. According to one study, 80% of kids will suffer an acute otitis media middle ear infection by the time they are three.

Sinus Infections and Earaches

Sinus infections and earaches are closely related health issues that often go hand in hand. The sinuses are air-filled cavities located within the bones of the face, and when these become inflamed or infected, they can lead to a condition known as sinusitis. Sinus infections commonly result from viral or bacterial infections, allergies, or anatomical factors. The proximity of the ear to the sinuses means sinusitis can frequently cause earaches. 

The Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the back of the throat, may become blocked or swollen during sinus infections, affecting ear pressure and causing discomfort. The pain experienced in the ear is often a secondary symptom of the underlying sinus issue. Individuals suffering from sinus infections may notice symptoms such as nasal congestion, facial pain, and headaches. At the same time, earaches can manifest as a feeling of fullness, popping sensations, or even temporary hearing loss. Seeking medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment is crucial to alleviate symptoms and prevent complications.

Earaches and COVID

Earaches and COVID-19 share a complex relationship, as the virus can manifest in various symptoms, including those affecting the ears. Some individuals with COVID-19 have reported experiencing ear-related issues, such as earaches, fullness, or a sensation of pressure. These symptoms may be associated with the virus’s impact on the respiratory system and its potential to cause inflammation in the nasal passages and throat. 

Additionally, complications such as secondary bacterial infections or the body’s inflammatory response to the virus could contribute to ear discomfort. It is essential to note that earaches alone are not specific to COVID-19, and other conditions can cause similar symptoms. Suppose someone experiences earaches with other COVID-19 symptoms or has been exposed to the virus. In that case, it is advisable to seek medical attention and get tested for COVID-19 to ensure appropriate care and timely isolation measures if needed.

Earaches and Sore Throat

Experiencing both earaches and a sore throat can indicate various underlying health issues, often related to respiratory infections. The ears, nose, and throat are interconnected, and diseases affecting one area can quickly spread to others. Earaches and sore throats commonly coexist due to shared connections like the Eustachian tubes and the proximity of the throat to the ears. 

Respiratory infections, such as the common cold or flu, frequently lead to symptoms like throat irritation and ear discomfort. Infections caused by viruses or bacteria can trigger inflammation in the throat and may affect the Eustachian tubes, leading to earaches. Other factors, such as allergies or sinus infections, also contribute to this tandem of symptoms. Seeking medical advice is crucial to identifying the underlying cause and receiving appropriate treatment, whether antibiotics for a bacterial infection or supportive care for a viral illness.

What Are The Symptoms of Earache

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

  • Ear pain
  • Impaired hearing
  • Fluid drainage from the ear
What Are The Symptoms of Earache - ER of Dallas

Children can typically show additional symptoms, such as:

  • Ear pain
  • Muffled hearing or difficulty responding to sounds
  • Fever
  • Sense of fullness in the ear
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Tugging or pulling at the ear
  • Crying or acting irritable more than usual
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • There is a loss of balance in the body

What Causes Earache?

Other than the infection or wounded site, ear pain is experienced elsewhere. For instance, ear pain could be associated with jaw or tooth pain.

Earaches may be caused by:

What Causes Earache - ER of Dallas

Ear Infection

  • A common cause of earaches and ear pain is ear infections. All three parts of the ear are susceptible to ear infections.
  • Swimming, using headphones or hearing aids that harm the skin within the ear canal, and sticking fingers or cotton swabs into the ear canal can all result in an outer ear infection.
  • An infection may result from scratches or irritations to the skin in the ear canal. The ear canal’s skin becomes softer when wet, which can encourage the growth of bacteria.
  • Infections originating from a respiratory tract illness might result in middle ear infections. These infections can lead to an accumulation of fluid behind the ear drums, which can harbor germs.
  • An inner ear condition known as labyrinthitis can occasionally result from bacterial or viral infections contracted from respiratory ailments.

Ear Wax

Every day, wax is produced and removed from your ear. An ineffective cleaning process results in gunk building up and solidifying in your ear canal. Your physician will refer to this wax as impacted. It hurts sometimes.

Never attempt to remove wax with cotton swabs or any other instrument. By forcing it deeper into your ear canal, you’ll only increase its chances of becoming impacted. You may experience pain, itching, discharge, or infection in your ear. You might experience temporary hearing loss.

OTC ear drops that soften wax and allow it to drain spontaneously can be used at home to treat slightly blocked ears. Or, if the wax has solidified, visit your physician.

Ear Pressure

Your ear does a fantastic job of maintaining equal pressure on both sides of your eardrum most of the time. During swallowing, you may feel a slight snap. When you make quick adjustments, such as during an elevator ride or flight, you might lose your equilibrium. You may experience ear pain and hearing loss. Some people may develop chronic eustachian tube dysfunction as a result of this problem.

To stay out of trouble when flying:

  • During takeoff and landing, chew gum, suck on hard candy, or yawn and swallow.
  • As the plane lowers, keep your eyes open.
  • After taking a big inhale and pinching your nose shut, gently try to blow air out of it.
  • When you have a cold, sinus infection, or allergy symptoms, stay away from diving and flying.

Other Causes

Even when the source of your discomfort is elsewhere in your body, such as a toothache, you may still experience pain in your ears. This results from your face and neck nerves passing quite near your inner ear. Referred pain is the term doctors use to describe pain that originates in one location but is felt in another.

If you have a harrowing sore throat along with your earache, it can be tonsillitis or pharyngitis. The most severe sign of one of these illnesses is frequent earache. Find out more about the signs of a sore throat.

Ear pain can also be caused by cavities, impacted molars, and tooth abscesses. By tapping on a tooth or feeling your gums to see if they are sore, your doctor can determine whether your teeth are the cause. Study up on toothaches.

How Is Ear Pain Diagnosed?

A physician can identify ear pain by reviewing your medical history and symptomsdeterminentify the source of your ear pain. They will probably also use an otoscope—a light-wielding instrument—to inspect your throat, nose, and ears for redness and other signs.

A tympanogram, a rapid test that measures middle ear pressure, or an otoscope used to push a puff of air against the eardrum to determine if it’s mousuallymally can also be used by a doctor to identify an ear infection.

Medical Treatment For Earaches

Your doctor can suggest over-the-counter (OTC) medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or Tylenol (acetaminophen) to treat ear pain. To ease the pain, your doctor might also suggest over-the-counter ear drops; however, you should never take these if there’s a possibility that the eardrum has ruptured.

Medical Treatment For Earaches - ER of Dallas

Although they are rarely required, antibiotics are occasionally administered for ear infections. Antibiotics like amoxicillin can treat severe or persistent ear infections in children that don’t go away after a few days.

An earache may result from earwax accumulation in the ear canal. Nevertheless, never put anything in your ear, not even a cotton swab, since this will only cause the wax to become lodged in the ear rather than come out. A medical specialist should be seen to diagnose and treat excessive earwax.

Home Remedies for Earache

Natural chemicals used in home treatments could offer some assistance. However, there is no scientific proof when it comes to their efficacy compared to over-the-counter drugs.

It is preferable to visit a doctor if an earache persists for more than 24 to 48 hours. They can investigate whether an underlying issue is causing the pain.

Home Remedies for Earache - ER of Dallas

Ear Dripping

Some people succeed with over-the-counter (OTC) treatments, particularly those that have tried natural ways. People who have had tubes surgically installed in the past or whose eardrum has ruptured shouldn’t use many over-the-counter drugs.

Some people might also need to see their doctor to ensure that their preferred treatment won’t conflict with any presently prescribed medications.

Neck Workout 

Tensed muscles that press against the ear canal might occasionally be the source of an earache. If so, a few easy neck exercises could help reduce the pain.

For example, raise the shoulders toward the ears and slowly rotate the head and neck; repeat this move daily day.


The Use of garlic as a natural earache cure dates back thousands of years. Garlic has an allicin chemical, which may help treat bacterial infections that could cause an earache. It is claimed that eating raw garlic helps lessen earache. Garlic, however, may conflict with antibiotics, so before taking it, consult a physician. 

Hydrogen Peroxide

Earaches have long been treated naturally with hydrogen peroxide. After applying five to ten drops, rest on your side with the aching ear facing up for approximately ten minutes. Once drained, rinse with cold water over the sink. The bubbles shouldn’t worry you; they can aid in clearing the ear canal of ear wax.

What Essential Oils Are Good for Earaches

Plant material is used to make essential oils. Consider them to be extremely concentrated versions of the plant they come from. Steaming plants or plant parts allows the oil to be extracted from the plant’s water content. The kind of plant the essential oil comes from and how it is removed affect its chemical composition.

Certain essential oils can help prevent bacterial and viral illnesses because of their antimicrobial or antibacterial qualities. Viruses take control of your body’s cells to function. Subsequently, the virus multiplies by using your cells. Certain essential oils work by stopping the virus from multiplying, which can assist halt that process.

Certain essential oils function similarly to antibiotics, aiding in the destruction of pathogenic bacterial strands. The mechanisms by which different oils kill the germs vary. Some, for instance, can obstruct the biological functions that provide the bacteria with energy. As a result, the bacteria die from starvation and exit your system.


Can Toothaches Cause Earaches?

Toothaches can cause earaches due to the proximity of the upper molars to the ear. Infections or inflammation in the teeth and surrounding gum tissue may lead to referred pain. Seeking dental care is crucial to address the underlying issue and alleviate both tooth and ear discomfort.

Are Earaches Contagious?

Earaches themselves are not contagious. They are symptoms of an underlying condition, such as an infection, which bacteria or viruses may cause. While the earache cannot be transmitted from person to person, the infectious agent responsible for the ear infection, such as bacteria or viruses, can be contagious. For example, a person with a viral or bacterial respiratory disease, like the common cold, may spread the infectious agents to others through respiratory droplets, potentially leading to ear infections in those who come into contact with the contagious person.

Is Olive Oil Good for Earaches?

Olive oil can benefit earaches as it may help soften earwax, making it easier to remove. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before using home remedies to address earaches, especially if there is an underlying infection or other medical condition.

Are Earaches a Sign of Covid-19?

While earaches are not a standard or specific symptom of COVID-19, some individuals with the virus may experience ear-related issues as part of a broader range of symptoms. If someone develops earaches and other symptoms like fever, cough, or loss of taste or smell, it’s advisable to seek medical attention and get tested for COVID-19.

Can Stress Cause Earaches?

Yes, stress can contribute to earaches as it may lead to muscle tension and changes in blood flow, affecting the ears. Chronic stress can exacerbate underlying conditions such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, potentially causing ear discomfort.

Bottom Line

The majority of us will experience ear pain or earache at some point in our lives. The most frequent causes of pediatric visits to their doctors are earaches and infections. Adults may have barotrauma from flying or temporomandibular joint conditions, among other common causes of earaches. Because earaches are a common issue, it doesn’t mean you have to ignore them. However, earaches might worsen if they are not treated. Furthermore, earaches could indicate potentially dangerous underlying medical issues. Anytime you have concerns regarding earaches, discuss your ear health with a healthcare professional at the ER of Dallas.

Dr. Abbas
Dr. Abbas Raza Mian, MD, is an experienced health care provider primarily located in Dallas, TX. He has specializes in Internal Medicine, Other Specialty, and Hospital Medicine. Dr. Mian is affiliated with a regional medical center.

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