Ear pain, commonly referred to as an earache, is a pain in one or both ears that may be dull, sharp, or burning. It can be constant or intermittent, and is most common in children.
What Causes Ear Pain?
Ear pain is a common complaint and can result from infection, poor Eustachian tube function, or temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ).
Other causes include ear trauma, perforated eardrum, sinus infection, sudden changes in pressure, excess buildup of earwax, sore throat, shampoo or water in the ear, tooth infection, arthritis of the jaw, and a foreign object in the ear.
When Should I See a Doctor?
If you are experiencing severe ear pain, dizziness, headache, a discharge of blood or pus from the ear, swelling, and facial muscle weakness, seek medical attention. If pain does not dissipate in 24 to 48 hours or worsens, or your symptoms continue, see a doctor. A sudden decrease in severe pain also warrants medical attention, as it may indicate a ruptured eardrum.
In the meantime, there are steps you can take to treat ear pain at home. Apply a cold, wet washcloth to the ear for at least twenty minutes. Sit in an upright position to reduce ear pressure, chew on something to help relieve pain, and use over-the-counter pain relievers. Eardrops can also be administered, unless you suspect an eardrum perforation.
To help prevent earaches, refrain from inserting objects in your ears. Dry your ears thoroughly after bathing or swimming, avoid tobacco smoke, and reduce your exposure to allergy triggers such as pollen and dust.