Ear pain is a common condition in people of all ages. However, it occurs in children more frequently than in adults. According to an authentic study, more than sixty percent of ear patients are between the ages of 0 to 17. Otalgia (ear pain) can affect one or both ears.
You may experience a constant dull ache inside the ear. Some people also report experiencing sharp and burning sensations. The onset and duration of ear pain also vary between individuals.
Ear pain may be a temporary discomfort and go away on its own.
There can be different causes of the disturbance. This article will discuss the most common causes, associated symptoms, and possible treatment options for ear pain.
Signs and Symptoms
Ear pain presents as the following symptoms in children and adults:
As an adult, you may instantly notice the changes in your hearing capabilities. But most children are unable to convey the underlying issues. Your child may complain of inability to hear the television at normal volume. A delayed response to voice directions can indicate hearing impairments.
Research shows a high prevalence of disabling hearing impairment (DHI) in school children suffering from chronic suppurative otitis media (a painful ear infection).
Adults complain of muffled hearing and difficulty in responding to sounds. You might also feel fullness in the ear, which impedes the sound intensities.
In most cases, ear pain manifests as an underlying ear infection. As in all infections, fever is also an evident symptom of ear infections. Mastoiditis (swelling of the mastoid bone) is a complication of ear infection.
In several young patients, recurrent ear infections’ manifestations include ear pain, fever, and headache.
You may experience headaches with ear pain. Red ear syndrome is a rare disorder characterized by burning sensations in the ear. Redness of the external ear is accompanied by ear pain and headaches.
Drainage from the Ear
Some patients also notice fluid drainage from the ear. Parotid gland pathologies can induce ear pain and lead to the drainage of fluids from the ear. Chronic ear drainage may accompany ear pain in multiple cases.
Symptoms In Children
Adolescents become aggressive and easily irritated with ear pain. They may also lose their appetite due to pain and fever. Pediatric patients present with excessive crying.
Causes of Ear Pain
To treat ear pain, it is crucial to know the underlying causes. Various causes give rise to primary and secondary otalgia. The most likely cause of ear pain is an allergy or viral infection, which we will discuss below in detail:
You may develop an Infection in the external, middle, and inner ear.
Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) is a bacterial infection that affects the outer ear and is characterized by drainage and aches. It develops when water gets trapped in the external ear canal, resulting in bacterial growth.
Hearing aids and in-ear headphones may also be potential causes of external ear infections.
External and middle ear infections are common in young adults and children. Otitis media (middle ear infection) is a major contributor to acute ear pain with discharge. Acute bacterial infection is self-limiting in most cases but may need antibiotics for management.
The viral infection of the middle ear is often due to cold and respiratory infections, like sinusitis, that can cause ear congestion. Common colds, allergies, and sinus infections can make your ear achy and full.
Blockage of the eustachian tubes leads to fluid build-up, causing pain, pressure, and a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses.
Inner ear infections are rare, but labyrinthitis is a likely outcome of viral or bacterial infection from respiratory illnesses.
Such infections affect hearing and cause vertigo and balance issues.
Upper teeth infections (especially of the wisdom teeth) can cause secondary otalgia. A dental abscess induces pain that can radiate to the ear and neck on the same side.
Research suggests chronic allergies increase the propensity for middle ear infections.
Allergy promotes inflammation in the ear and triggers infectious agents’ invasion. Such patients are also prone to upper respiratory tract infections.
Allergic rhinitis (nasal allergy to pollen or hay) is linked to ear pain. Managing common cold symptoms and allergic response is crucial in alleviating ear pain. Thus, pediatric ear pain management relies on identifying underlying allergic rhinitis.
Other less common causes of ear pain include:
- Excessive wax
- Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Dysfunction/ Syndrome
- Traveling at high altitudes
Ear Pain Treatment Options
Severe ear pain and persistent high-grade fever can indicate serious underlying conditions. Rupturing of the eardrums presents with dizziness, headaches, and acute earaches.
Timely treatment is vital as delaying treatment can cause grave consequences like permanent hearing loss. Do not neglect the symptoms if the ache lasts more than two days and seek immediate medical help.
Some simple home remedies can help you alleviate ear pain. Avoiding water exposure and using a cold pack can help reduce symptoms.
Chewing gum can relieve ear pressure and lower pain. If you have recurrent ear pain episodes, always carry chewing gum on the flight with you.
Over-the-counter painkiller medicines like ibuprofen or paracetamol can also provide sufficient relief from pain.
Inhaling steam if suffering from congestion can help relieve the blockage and drain away the fluids accumulating in the eustachian tube causing the pain.
Is Ear Pain Seasonal?
Contrary to common belief, earache is not necessarily a seasonal condition. Seasonal allergic reactions are the most common cause that can trigger ear congestion and pain due to sinus infections or swollen eustachian tubes.
However, ear pain can be due to several other causes, like injury to the eardrum, wax accumulation, dental problems, and TMJ dysfunction.
How Can We Help?
Our experienced doctors are here to offer the highest level of urgent care for all your problems.
We provide different treatment options for your aching ear. Your ear doctor will prescribe oral antibiotics to manage bacterial or viral infections (of the ear, sinus, or teeth). Antibiotic preparations of ear drops may also be prescribed for added localized relief.
If the pain is due to built-up wax, softening ear drops can help manage the condition. Your doctor might carry out an ear lavage to remove the excess wax.
For TMJ dysfunction, the doctors might suggest you rest and use repositioning splints. Severe cases may require surgical intervention.