Ear Pain or Earache Can Be A Nightmare! (Reasons & Ways to Prevent)

Ranjeet KumarReviewed by Mr. Ranjeet Kumar Sr. Audiologist, Speech Therapist & Cochlear Implant Specialist, BASLP on May 1st, 2020 written by Editorial Team

Many of us have lost our sleep due to nightmares. As they are the most prominent source of sleep disturbances. What will happen if the nightmare turns into reality?

Suppose one night your own ear becomes the sole responsibility for your nightmare in the form of an earache. Well, it’s very hard to imagine ear pain as a nightmare. Because this ear pain will convert the nightmare into dreadful reality.

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Ear pain is also known to us by a lot of other names, such as an earache, otalgia, or simply,  sore inside ear. As you may know, having a sudden pain in your ear can sometimes, lead to unforeseen problems in the future.

ear pain or earache or otalgia, or simply, pain in the ear

We often put ourselves in a false belief that only aged people have problems with their overall health and well-being as they grow older. But, this is not true.

As a matter of fact, we may also find that many infants, children, adolescents, and adults experience various health problems in their lives – among which one is called ‘otalgia’ aka an earache, as defined by pathologists.

So, What Exactly Is Otalgia (Ear Pain)?

In medical terms, Otalgia is a condition where a person experiences mild to severe pain, especially in the inner ear, which initially starts at the stage of being acute in nature and then could even take the form of a chronic disease, if not treated properly and on time.

Several research and studies have shown that the prevalence of otalgia has become common in various parts of the world, while the majority of the cases have been found in the Asian and African regions.

One may experience different earaches. Have you experience that sometimes, cold cough or other body problems lead to mild or severe ear pain.

Though this type of earache is not directly linked to your ear problems, still you become a sufferer.

Primary otalgia is an ear pain directly associated with the problem of the ear. For Example, Ear pain due to ear infection, ear wax blockage. Ear infection is the main reason for primary otalgia.

When the external sources are responsible for ear pain it is termed as secondary otalgia. Thus secondary otalgia is an ear pain caused due to the problems of the other parts of the body. For Example, Cavities, TMJ disorders, sore throat, arthritis, teeth, tonsils.

Well, you all are aware of the general reasons that lead to this nightmare or you can say ear pain. Do you remember the reason behind your ear pain?

What reasons were told by your doctor behind your problem?  It can be due to several reasons. Let’s have a look at some of the causes and try to remember yours?

Causes Of Ear Pain

First of all, it should be noted that earaches are non-communicable. This means that a person will not acquire this type of organ problem through direct contact with another person who is already suffering from otalgia.

However, there are several other reasons which may cause this so-called complexity in the ear of an individual, regardless of his or her age or well-being.

Pain in the ear may occur in one ear only, or it could affect both ears in a person of any age group. Usually, a person may feel severe pain in the middle ear, or at the inner ear, which is a sensitive part and may thus, lead to serious consequences if it is damaged.

Let’s look at some of the main causes of ear pain or otalgia which may occur in a person due to the following reasons:

1. Ear Infection

Experts estimate that 3 out of 4 babies develop ear infections when the fluid in the middle ear builds up and inflammation develops, but diagnosing the exact cause can be challenging.

Ear Infection

The various types of ear infection are described below:

  • Infection inside the ear (or the eardrum) When the bacteria and germs are formed inside the ear, it leads to the infection in the eardrum. This follows an earache, itching, and discharge. So infection can be the main reason behind ear pain.
  • Infection on the outer ear (Otitis Externa) – If you have otitis externa your ear may feel sore or itchy. There may be a discharge coming out of your ear. Your ear may feel blocked and you may not be able to hear properly. It is also called swimmer’s ear.
  • Middle ear infection (Otitis Media) It is the most common cause of earache in children. The child with a middle ear infection can experience cold, and fever along with ear pain. It occurs when fluid and pus build up in the middle ear, behind the tympanic membrane (eardrum), causing ear pain.
  • Sinus infection Sinus infections can keep fluid trapped in your ear behind your eardrum. When this happens, bacteria or viruses can grow and cause an infection. Fullness or pressure in one or both ears. Pain in one or both of them.

2. Accumulation of Earwax Inside The Ear

Earwax blockage can be the main reason for ear pain as wax blocks the ear canal. Earwax blockage can lead to various severe conditions including ear pain.

3. Presence of Foreign Objects

Foreign body stocks in the ear canal and causes an earache, deafness, and discharge. Sometimes, when you try to remove the foreign objects, then it goes deeper into the ear canal and can damage your eardrum.

Thus foreign objects like a cotton swab, soap, water, or other particles can damage your inner cells and cause severe pain.

4. Blood Clot

If the blood clots in the deeper auditory system i.e. behind the eardrum, it can cause severe pain. A blood clot prevents the blood flow that keeps the system running and function.

As a result, it leads to an earache. A proper supply of blood is necessary for the proper functioning of your ears.

5. Air Pressure

What Causes Ear Pain in Flight or Airplane Ear

Have you felt a heaviness in the plane? This is due to the sudden shift in air pressure as the plane takes over. The changes in the pressure in the airplane can cause ear pain.

Thus it is normal to have a little plain when you are on the flight.

6. Referred Pain

Some people complain about ear pain due to a toothache, headache, common cold, tonsils, cavities, arthritis, sore throat, etc. Here, ear pain is associated with other problems. These are referred to as the source of pain.

7. Trauma or Injury

When you poke sharp objects inside the ear, eardrum perforated and damages the ear canal. Loud noise and head injuries can damage the eardrum and may lead to severe pain, infection, and bleeding.

Injury or trauma can cause hearing loss along with an earache.

8. Loud Noise

Exposure to the loud noise damages the fine cells of the eardrum and it leads to ear pain along with the ruptured eardrum. Just protect your ears from environmental noise, loud music, concerts, etc.

9. Acquired At Birth

Some children are the sufferers of congenital injuries and syndromes. These acquired injuries can pose a threat to the ears in the future and cause hearing loss in children.

As birth injuries and internal disease can be the reason for your earache.

10. Use of Other Drugs or Medication

The drugs like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, etc are ototoxic and can damage sensory hair cells leading to ear pain and hearing loss.

So you can use it as prescribed by your doctor. Excessive use of these drugs or antibiotics can lead to ear pain.

11. Common Cold

This is due to the excessive mucus you produce when you have a cold. Some of this may collect in the middle ear, putting pressure on the eardrum and causing earache.

It causes Eustachian Tube Dysfunction. As a result, you experience ear pain.

12. Ruptured Eardrum

Ruptured eardrum leads to ear pain along with the clear and bloody fluid from the ear. It can be very painful.

These are some of the major causes which lead to problems such as sharp pain in the ear and may also result in hearing loss in the long run if proper care is not taken immediately.

Most people usually ignore when they feel a sense of pain inside or outside their ears, which is really not a good thing to do.

Although it may not appear harmful in the beginning, yet it can gradually take the shape of causing permanent damage to your ear(s) later in life.

Common Symptoms of Ear Pain

Generally, people suffering from an earache problem will show certain signs and symptoms, which, therefore, is also useful for doctors in order to understand the problem and carry out the necessary treatment.

In a similar manner, when children and adults are affected by otalgia, they tend to react because of the irritation caused which makes them feel uncomfortable – whether it is for a short while, or it keeps occurring for long periods of time.

Ear pain in Kids

They may also cry and tug at or rub their ears. Other signs of earaches in babies include trouble sleeping, waking at night, fever, clumsiness, and difficulty hearing. Very rarely, earaches in children can result in hearing loss.

Ear pain in Adults

If you are suffering from an earache, you may show certain symptoms like the ones given below:

General Symptoms
  • Unbearable pain can destroy your peaceful life. You may experience a sudden, continuous intermittent stabbing pain in the ear. This stabbing pain experience will affect you physically, socially, emotionally, and professionally.
  • Ear pain comes along with the burning sensation of the ear. In case of severe ear pain, you may experience inflammation in the outer, inner, and middle ear.
  • Sometimes, along with burning and pain, you may experience severe itching in the ear canal.
  • You may recognize swelling in the outer ear. Swelling may be caused due to various reasons like ear infections.
  • When you are exposed to loud music or concerts, you may experience ear pain along with ringing in the ear (tinnitus). Thus it is the symptom as well as an alarming sign for your auditory system.
  • When you will visit an audiologist due to an earache, he will complain about ruptured or perforated eardrums. And due to this damaged eardrum, you are experiencing this nightmare.
  • Have you experience the drainage of sticky pus, fluids, or blood from the ear. This calls for the necessity to visit an audiologist immediately. It is a common symptom of an earache and reflects an alarming situation.
  • If you experience, buzzing, dull hearing, and sudden loss of hearing along with ear pain, you should immediately consult the audiologist. As it may be the sign of partial loss of hearing.

Other symptoms may include the following :

  • Along with an earache, you may experience swelling and severe pain in the jaw.
  • Earache may lead to disturbances of the brain, gastrointestinal system, vision, and the vestibular system of the inner ear. The feeling of dizziness is a common sign.
  • As an earache is the worst nightmare you can’t think over. It reduces your appetite, sleep, and causes other physical problems. As a result immunity of your body becomes weak.
  • Can you think of eating, if you are suffering from severe ear pain? Normally, the answer will be no. As a result, you can’t concentrate on eating in case of severe ear pain. This will automatically decrease your weight, abilities, and immunity too.
  • Ear pain is the worst nightmare and dreadful reality. Naturally, your sleep gets disturbed due to this and leads to sleep problems and restlessness.

The symptoms may at times, be unbearable for many people because of its effect on the organ which gives you the ability to hear.

Thus, if you are experiencing any of the signs which are mentioned above, it is advised that you seek treatment immediately and avoid making the condition severe.

There have been many cases where a large number of children suffer from earaches. While some of them are able to receive proper treatment, however, on the other hand, there are also children who do not get so lucky to obtain timely treatment, thus, leaving a few completely untreated.

How To Treat An Earache Effectively?

Earaches or otalgia can be treated on time if you take prompt action. The first and foremost solution to such a problem is by visiting nearby healthcare to avail of proper treatment.

Chronic ear pain in adults can also be associated with related conditions, including tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in the ear that affects about 1 in 5 people.

Having intermittent stabbing pain in the ear can be classified as temporary and lasting (or chronic). So, depending on the duration in the occurrence of the pain in a person’s ear, whether it’s on one ear or both ears, there are remedies that can help you get rid of the pain or heal the problem for good.

That being said, let’s look at the various effective remedies that will help you overcome conditions such as otalgia.

What To Do When Having A Temporary Or Sudden Pain In The Ear?

In cases when you’re just having a sudden pain which only lasts briefly, then you can do the following that will help you relieve the pain:

  • Use antibiotics for quick relief from the pain but avoid continuous use of such antibiotics.
  • Apply a warm cloth on the ear to rid of the pain.
  • Chew gum as it can help in reducing throbbing pain in the ear.
  • Yawn a couple of times to open ear canal which gets closed due to air clog.
  • Hold your nostrils, close your mouth, and try to blow air out and repeat the sequence.
  • Pour one or two drops of oil (baby oil, garlic oil, or mustard oil) in the affected ear and you will feel relieved in a moment’s time.
  • Using the warm olive oil can reduce your ear pain.
  • Dry or clean out water that gets trapped inside your ear.

Read more: Home remedies for earaches

What To Do When Having A Lasting Pain In The Ear?

If you are experiencing a condition where you have to deal with a chronic earache, then the following methods will help you:

  • Don’t let your ears exposed to the environmental noise.
  • Avoid direct contact with dust, pollen, and other harmful particles.
  • Avoid using cotton swabs as this can further increase throbbing pain in the ear.
  • Don’t let your ear wet, if it has an infection and is in pain.
  • Avoid exposure to passive as well as active smoking.
  • Avoid prolonged listening to loud music via headphones or earphones.
  • Use earplugs when swimming.
  • Seek a professional ENT doctor or pathologist for immediate treatment

Your well-being is important to you and you cannot risk it no matter what. Similarly, taking proper care of your ear and other organs in your body will certainly let you live a longer and healthier life.


A good hearing will provide you a healthy life. Your overall system of the body depends on the auditory system. Therefore, pain in the ear will destroy your daily life, activities, routine, and your mood too.

Conditions such as otalgia or an earache are not fatal or life-threatening. However, since, it can greatly affect your hearing ability, it is, therefore, necessary that you do not take this condition lightly whatsoever and seek medical help as soon as possible.

You can purchase the latest hearing aids at a fair price through HearingSol, If you need any assistance or you have a query regarding Ear Earache or Hearing Loss, feel free to call us at +91-9327901950. We are always here to help you.

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