A lot of times people come to me with pain in the ear. They complain that it makes eating, drinking and talking very difficult.
An earache doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem in the ear. It can be due to an infection in the throat or nose also.
My ear hurts when I swallow. Why?
There can be mainly three areas of infection due to which your ear hurts whenever you swallow-
Can an Ear Infection Cause Ear Pain Whenever I swallow?
The most common cause of ear pain is an ear infection. This is a very painful condition that possesses several problems for the patient. Children are prone to suffering from ear infection but adults can develop them too.
Ear infections occur when bacteria or viruses infect the middle ear. There are some risk factors also.
An individual is more susceptible to developing an ear infection if he/she is suffering from an underlying condition such as-
- A cold
- Flare-ups due to allergy
A person with an ear infection often develop the following symptoms other than ear pain-
- Fluid-buildup inside the ear
- The pressure inside the ear
There are generally two types of ear infections– acute otitis media or otitis externa.
Middle ear infection or acute otitis media
In the ear canal, there is air-filled space behind the eardrum where small, vibrating bones are found. These bones allow you to hear and connect to the throat by a pair of narrow tubes known as Eustachian tubes. The function of the tubes is to drain fluid from the middle ear.
However, due to some factors that tubes can block resulting in the accumulation of fluid. This accumulated fluid can get infected and result in ear pain.
Outer ear infection or otitis externa
This is caused by germs that enter the ear canal through a foreign object such as a finger. If you are suffering from eczema, you are more likely to develop this infection.
Some other symptoms of otitis externa are-
- Itching inside the ear
- Discharge that smells bad
- Difficulty in hearing
A type of otitis externa which is common in swimmers is swimmer’s ear. This occurs when the ear canal fills up with water. Eventually, this creates a favorable condition for bacteria and viruses to thrive.
Irrespective of the type of ear infection, when you yawn, sneeze or swallow, the tubes relieve out pressure which can cause extreme pain.
Is it due to a nose or throat infection that causes ear pain?
In addition to ear infection, another factor that can cause ear pain is an infection in the nose and throat. The reason behind this is that the Eustachian tube connects the nose and throat.
Adenoids, masses of tissue present at the back of the throat of children, enlarge when germs enter the body through mouth and nose. The adenoids are placed in close proximity to the Eustachian tubes in the nasal passages.
When the adenoids become very large due to an infection, it can clog the Eustachian tubes. As explained above, clogging of Eustachian tubes results in a buildup of fluid which can further lead to infections.
Can tonsillitis cause ear pain?
Yes, ear pain can be due to tonsillitis also. The tonsils located at the back of the throat have the important function of trapping harmful germs that enter through the mouth.
However, due to the accumulation of food debris and bacteria build-up, the tonsils can get infected. The infection of tonsils is known as tonsillitis.
People complaining of ear pain due to tonsillitis, report other symptoms as well.
- Tenderness of the lymph nodes
- Difficulty in swallowing
- White spots on the throat
- Swollen, red or inflamed tonsils
- Hoarse voice
- Bad breath
Tonsillitis can develop both due to bacterial and viral invasion. However, the most common one is bacterial tonsillitis. In addition to home remedies for tonsillitis, you can also undergo a tonsillectomy.
What are other conditions that can cause ear pain while swallowing?
In addition to the above problems, there are other reasons due to which you can suffer from ear pain while swallowing. Some of them are explained below-
- Peritonsillar abscess- When the tonsillitis is left untreated, it can worsen into an abscess and fill with pus. This usually causes pain on the side of the ear. This also makes swallowing unbearable.
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunction- In this disorder, the alignment between the jaw bone and the skull gets distorted resulting in extreme pain. This causes ear pain while chewing.
- Bacterial infection in the teeth and gums can also cause ear pain.
- Dental abscesses can be another contributing factor.
Some conditions of ear pain can be cured only with surgery. For instance, it is possible that ear pain can accompany hearing loss. This indicates a hole in the eardrum. Such a condition requires tympanoplasty.