What Causes Earaches and How Can Ear Pain Be Alleviated?

by | Jul 16, 2022 | Client Resources, Hearing Health

Ear pain and earaches are a fairly common ailment, and can affect everyone from young children to seniors.

Earaches can occur due to a variety of factors with an array of symptoms and severity. Ear pain and earaches are a fairly common ailment, and can affect everyone from young children to seniors. The effects can range considerably, causing anything from a sharp, acute pain to a slow, dull ache. If pain and discomfort persist, it is recommended to seek the assistance of a hearing professional.

What is Otalgia?

Otalgia is the medical term for ear pain or earache. There are two main types of otalgia, primary and referred. Primary otalgia applies to pain that originates within the ear, pain that develops from outside the ear is called referred otalgia.

Common Causes of Earaches

Whether ear pain originates from within or outside the ear, there are several common factors that are generally responsible for earaches.

  • Ear infection
  • Sinus infection, colds, allergies
  • Earwax accumulation
  • Glue ear/Adhesive Otitis
  • Swimmer’s ear/External Otitis
  • Dental issues
  • Changes in weather or altitude
  • Impact to the inner ear or ruptured eardrum

Ear Infections

Earaches caused by ear infections are often seen in children, but can affect people of any age. Pain and discomfort is typically caused by fluid buildup behind the eardrum, exerting pressure on it. Chronic ear infections are generally treated with prescribed antibiotics, and sometimes surgery is required when medications are ineffective.

Sinus Infection, Colds, Allergies

Ear pain caused by sinus issues, colds, and allergies is quite similar to that resulting from ear infections. Pressure builds up inside the ear due to fluid accumulation which can cause the outer ear to itch and swell.

Earwax Accumulation

Earwax can build up and harden inside the ear, causing blockages leading to pain and discomfort. You can try loosening up the hardened wax with warm water, or by using baby or olive oil. Gently apply warm water using a rubber bulb syringe and then tilt your head to allow the contents of the ear to drain out.

Glue Ear/Adhesive Otitis

Glue ear, also known as adhesive otitis, is characterized by the middle ear filling with a sticky glue-like substance instead of air. This results in dulled hearing and a deadening effect on the vibrations of the eardrum.

Swimmer’s Ear/External Otitis

Otitis externa, or swimmer’s ear, is a similar condition to adhesive otitis, except it affects the outer ear. It typically occurs when water gets trapped in the ear canal, which can become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. It often results in irritation and inflammation and may also become infected.

Dental Issues

Problems like an infected tooth or perpetual grinding of teeth can also result in earaches. A tooth can become infected if bacteria gets inside the hollow area inside the tooth that contains the dental pulp, or dentin. Especially if a molar becomes infected, the pain can extend to the ears.

Changes in Weather or Altitude

Many people experience chronic headaches and earaches in the spring with the changes in barometric pressure. Changes in barometric pressure can affect the fluid in the inner ear causing an imbalance resulting in a popping sensation or the ears feeling full. Shifts in altitude can also cause earaches and is sometimes known as ear barotrauma. This is due to varying pressure inside and outside of the eardrum and is often experienced when mountain climbing, flying in an airplane, or scuba diving.

Impact to the Inner Ear or Ruptured Eardrum

When inserting a cotton into your ear to clean, there is a risk of not only pushing the earwax further in, but also causing damage to the inner ear. Using cotton swabs can impact the eardrum and can even rupture or puncture the eardrum resulting in hearing loss.

How to Alleviate Ear Pain

There are several safe and effective ways to treat earaches and ear pain. Options include:

  • Apply a warm or cold compress
    • An effective method may be to alternate between the two every 10-15 minutes to achieve relief
  • Ear drops
    • Over the counter ear drops or a hydrogen-peroxide/water solution is recommended
  • Warm olive or baby oil
    • Can be used as an alternative to ear drops
  • Rubbing alcohol or apple cider vinegar can be applied to outer earaches
  • Chewing gum or sucking on candy
    • Exercising the jaw can help relieve pressure
  • Consult a hearing professional
    • If pain persists it is recommended to speak with an expert

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Jennifer Abbott

Jennifer Abbott brings over 25 years of experience in business. She has worked in multiple industries, including insurance brokerage, aviation, and health. Her career journey enabled her to acquire impeccable skills to help people find solutions in any situation. Jennifer is well travelled. She has lived and worked in Dubai for award-winning Emirates Airline. Jennifer has enjoyed working in a multicultural environment. Her offshore work empowered her to learn about various cultures from over 100 different nationalities. Upon her return home, Jennifer pursued her studies as a Hearing Aid Practitioner. While working in a hearing clinic, she became aware of some people’s challenges getting to their appointment. She realized that those people were not getting the proper hearing aid help they needed, which compromised their hearing. People’s struggles inspired her to establish the first unique 100% mobile hearing clinic in the lower mainland. As the founder of Hear at Home Mobile Hearing Clinic, Jennifer’s mission is to improve her client’s quality of life at any age. She has in-depth experience with hearing testing fitting, recommending hearing aids and working with older populations suffering from cognitive decline and Dementia.

    The Hear at Home Promise

    Our Pinky Promise to You

    • Your partner for life – as a locally owned and independent business, you’ll have the confidence that we’ll be here long into the future to be your hearing care partners for life. We’re not a pop-up business that will be gone tomorrow.
    • Access to all levels of technology – as an independent business, we will help you to find the right technology for your unique needs through our wide range of partnerships with major manufactures. Unlike many others, you’re not limited to just one manufacturer.
    • Honesty and integrity – our 14 year reputation has been built based on always doing the right thing. You’ll benefit from transparency, honesty and the highest levels of integrity.
    • Benefit from us helping thousands of local people – with thousands of delighted patients since 2009, you will benefit from partnering with the highest-rated team of hearing care experts in Greater Vancouver that have helped many others to achieve the outcomes that you’re looking for.