Earaches are common and can occur in both children and adults. An earache may be spontaneous or prevail over a long time. It can be caused due to an infection, other underlying health problem or an injury. It can come and disappear within no time, and sometimes may last for days. Earaches are often accompanied by a sharp throbbing and burning sensation inside the ears. 

Common symptoms of an earache

Common symptoms of earache in children or adults may include:

  • Impaired hearing
  • Pain
  • Pus or fluid drainage
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fever
  • Feeling of fullness in the ears
  • Headache
  • Loss of balance
  • Change in air pressure
  • Earwax buildup
  • A foreign object in the ear
  • Perforated eardrum
  • Sinus infection
  • Facial arthritis

What causes earaches?

Earaches can be caused due to infection, irritation in the ear due to a certain health condition, or an infection. Earaches may sometimes originate inside the ears, and other times it may originate in other parts of the face and may spread to the ears.

Ear infections and ear pain

Ear infections may occur in the outer, middle, and inner ear. The most common type of ear infection that causes earaches is known as the otitis media. Ear infections may be caused by clogging of water inside the ears, allergies, sinus infections, smoking, or even due to rampant use of headphones.

When an ear infection occurs, the eustachian tubes become swollen and blocked which leads to fluid build up in the middle ear. Ear infection causes the skin of the ear canal to get irritated and scratched. This causes the skin to wear off and fluid to drain from the ear which causes pain.

Sinus infection and ear ache

A sinus infection can cause fluid build up in the ear behind the eardrum. The bacteria and viruses that get trapped inside causes ear infection and ear ache. Ear ache due to sinus infection may also be accompanied by muffled hearing and pain in the ear.

Perforated eardrum and earache

A perforated or ruptured eardrum is a hole or tear in the tissue of the ear that separates the ear canal from the middle ear. 

The eardrum may get ruptured or perforated while swimming, scuba diving, driving at higher altitudes, or due to a serious impact or injury in the ear. A perforated eardrum may not only cause pain in the ear but can also cause bleeding and hearing loss. 

Wax buildup and earache

Earwax is a very common cause of earache. Earwax is often responsible for protecting the ear skin. Unless it becomes painful, there is no need to remove earwax. But if the build up of the earwax becomes too thick, it may cause pain in the ear. Earache due to earwax buildup is very common in kids and children. 

Home remedies for earaches

If the earache is mild, it can be treated at home using home remedies. Common home remedies for earaches are:

  • Do not get the ear wet.
  • Sit upright. Avoid lying down.
  • Apply cold washcloth in the ear.
  • Take over the counter ear drop and painkillers.
  • Do not sleep on the side of the ear that pains.

Medical treatment for earache

An earache is diagnosed and treated by an ENT specialist. The doctor will diagnose the ear properly and prescribe oral antibiotics and ear drops. If the pain is severe, the doctor will suggest both.

If the earache is caused due to a ruptured or perforated eardrum, then the patient might even require a surgery. The surgery is known as Tympanoplasty. During the surgery, the surgeon graft a tiny patch of the patient’s tissue to close the hole or part of the eardrum which is perforated. However, this is not always a necessity; most eardrums heal without any treatment in a few weeks time.

A person who suffers from earache needs to see a doctor, if:

  • The pain grows severe.
  • The pain is accompanied by fever and headache.
  • There is swelling and redness in and around the ear.
  • There is blood or pus drainage from the ear.

How to prevent earaches?

Following are some of the very simple ways to prevent earaches from occurring or getting worse.

  • Avoid smoking
  • Do not expose the ear to any kind of secondhand smoke
  • Stay away from loud music and noise
  • Do not insert any foreign object inside the ear.
  • Do not put water inside the ear.
  • Visit the nearby ENT clinic to regularly clean your ears.

If any pain of throbbing sensation occurs in the ears, it is always better to consult with an experienced ENT doctor.

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