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Last Updated: Nov 08, 2021
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Ear Pain: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

About Types Causes Home Treatment Treatment Side effects Prevention Post-treatment guidelines Recovery How to get rid of ear pain? Cost Results How to relieve ear pain? Alternatives

What is ear pain?

As the name suggests, ear pain is a condition that is characterised by painful sensation in one or both the ears. It is usually believed to affect the kids. However, adults can also experience earache or pain. The sensation caused by ear pain can be dull, burning, or sharp.

Fever and temporary loss of hearing often accompany the condition. Ear pains can vary in their severity, with some being a gentle throbbing pain and others being so severe that it becomes difficult to walk. Some of the most common causes of ear pain include a buildup of hardened earwax, a quick change in air pressure, swimmer's ear, infection, etc.

Types of Ear Pain

There are two types of ear pain that come with this ailment.

  • The first is the actual pain which occurs deep within the ear.
  • The second is the referred pain which occurs outside the ear and alerts you to the fact that something is not quite right.

How can you tell the difference between an earache and an ear infection?

Ear infection is one of the most common causes of earache. ear infection includes outer, middle, and inner ear infection.

  • An outer ear infection occurs when the skin inside the ear canal gets damaged due to the use of equipment such as earphones or hearing aid. Exposure to water facilitates the growth of bacteria in the damaged skin which ultimately leads to infection.
  • A middle ear infection is usually a consequence of an infection in the respiratory tract. The condition causes the accumulation of fluid in the eardrums that facilitates the breeding of bacteria.

Whereas earache can also be caused due to other reasons like accumulation of earwax or sudden change in air pressure.

What causes ear pain?

Ear pain can be caused by:

  • Earwax: Usually, the earwax formed in the ear gets disposed of on its own. However, this is not the case every time. Occasionally, the earwax accumulates and hardens. This leads to a blockage in the ear passage which causes pain.
  • Air Pressure:Sudden change in air pressure can adversely affect the balance of pressure maintained in both the ears. This causes a pop-like sensation in the ear and which may be painful for some time.
  • Ear infections: This is one of the most common causes of ear pain. Types of ear infections include outer, middle, and inner ear infections.
    • An outer ear infection occurs when the skin inside the ear canal gets damaged due to the use of equipment such as earphones or hearing aid. Exposure to water facilitates the growth of bacteria in the damaged skin which ultimately leads to infection.
    • A middle ear infection is usually a consequence of an infection in the respiratory tract. The condition causes accumulation of fluid in the eardrums that facilitates the breeding of bacteria.
  • Labyrinthitis (or inner ear disorder): It is also caused by infections associated with respiratory illnesses.

It is important to note that ear pain can sometimes be cause by other underlying conditions such as sinusitis, problems in your teeth, an infection in your nose or the pharynx, cancer in your throat, or an aura that comes right before a migraine, medical conditions such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome etc. This is why it is important to not solely rely on home remedies for ear pain and to visit your doctor in a timely fashion.

How do you know if ear pain is serious?

You should consider your pain seriously if you are also experiencing:-

  • If you are feeling stiffness in your neck.
  • If you are feeling severe drowsiness.
  • If you are getting Nausea and vomiting tendency.
  • If you are getting high fever.
  • If you are getting trauma in your head.

When should I see a doctor for an earache?

If ear pain is accompanied by following symptoms then it is serious and you need to approach a doctor:-

  • If you feel dizziness or you are hearing less.
  • If you are experiencing fever along with ear pain then it's a sign of infection.
  • When you experience blood discharge from ear.
  • While blowing your nose if you are experiencing nose pain.
  • If your pain last longer than 1-2 day.
  • If you feel any object has got stuck in your ear.

Can you have ear pain without infection?

Yes, ear pain can be caused without ear infection also due to other reasons mentioned below.

  • Earwax: Usually, the earwax formed in the ear gets disposed of on its own. However, this is not the case every time. Occasionally, the earwax accumulates and hardens. This leads to a blockage in the ear passage which causes pain.
  • Air Pressure: Sudden change in air pressure can adversely affect the balance of pressure maintained in both the ears. This causes a pop like sensation in the ear and which may be painful for some time.

Why is ear pain worse at night?

  • At day time you experience less ear pain because your head is vertically positioned and that facilitates the easy flow of air through the ear canal but during night when you lie down on bed then airflow through the canal is reduced and it may sometime get blocked and you may experience more pain.
  • During daytime you chew food or yawn which results in opening of the ear can wide and facilitates ear flow but during night these activities are not done and your ear pain worsens.

Can Earache be caused by stress?

Yes, Earache can be caused due to stress in the jaw joint which arises while we are chewing food, crunching, yawning or maybe sometime due to personal stress.

Does ear pain always mean infection?

No,Ear pain can be caused due to other reason as well such as:-

  • Earwax:

    Usually, the earwax formed in the ear gets disposed of on its own. However, this is not the case every time. Occasionally, the earwax accumulates and hardens. This leads to a blockage in the ear passage which causes pain.

  • Air Pressure:

    Sudden change in air pressure can adversely affect the balance of pressure maintained in both the ears. This causes a pop like sensation in the ear and which may be pa.

How to treat ear pain at home?

Ear pain is a condition that usually goes away on its own. However, sometimes it may require attention. For an ear pain that is not severe, home remedies can be considered.

You can follow the below-mentioned home remedies to get relief from ear pain:

  • Take OTC medicines such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin etc
  • Apply Warm or Cold Compresses
  • Use Ear drops
  • Consume garlic, ginger and onion
  • Practice neck rotation exercises
  • Avoid pressure on ear while sleeping

Will an earache go away by itself?

Yes,a minor earache can go away within a few days on its own. If your ear ache continues for more than 3-4 days and it is also accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, fever then you need to consult a doctor.

But in case of chronic ear infection which is accompanied by inflammation, fluid discharge, infection it does not go by itself. It can reoccur again as it does not completely heal.

How to treat ear pain?

Visiting an ENT specialist (ear, nose, throat) is the first step in ensuring that the treatment occurs. The doctor will first use an otoscope or an auriscope to have a look inside your ear. This will help determine the exact cause of the pain.

For moderate to severe ear pain, medical treatment should be sought. A physician will determine the most effective treatment for your ear pain. Some of the treatment options include:

  • Pain relief: A physician may prescribe an OTC pain reliever such as acetaminophen to reduce pain and ibuprofen to ease fever.
  • Antibiotic: If the ear pain is caused by a bacterial infection, then your physician may prescribe antibiotics. You should follow the instructions and complete the whole course. Otherwise, the infection may return and become resistant to medication.
  • Drainage: The infection may sometimes lead to serious complications including buildup of fluid in the ear. To clear the buildup, the physician may perform a myringotomy. The procedure involves the creation of a small hole in the eardrum to drain out the accumulated fluids.

Are there any side effects?

As is the case with most medications, there are certain side effects that you should be vary of. If your doctor has prescribed antibiotics to treat your ear infection, you can expect a mild fever to develop as most antibiotics raise the temperature of your body. Thus, it’s nothing to be alarmed about.

Some eardrops can lead to drowsiness and should not be taken right before performing physical activities or driving as that can be highly dangerous. Such drops are usually meant to be administered at night when you can fall asleep without worry. If you are allergic to any substance, it is best to discuss that with your health care provider so that he or she can administer medication that does not contain the allergen.

How long does ear pain last?

  • Most ear pain treatments last anywhere between 7-10 days.
  • As you continue to take your medications, you will notice a gradual decrease in your symptoms or your pain on a daily basis until the whole thing is gone.
  • If your ear pain is caused due to any other condition that you may be suffering from, then it takes much longer to recover.
  • Until that condition is treated completely, the referral pain in your ear may not completely go away.

How to prevent earaches?

Some of the earaches that are not caused by an underlying condition can be prevented. You can follow the below-mentioned measures to reduce the likelihood of earaches:

  • Avoid exposing your ears to foreign objects
  • Swipe your ears dry after exposure to water
  • Avoid triggers that cause an allergic reaction
  • Quit smoking cigarette and reduce exposure to smoke

How should I sleep with ear pain?

keep two or three pillows behind your head so that your head region is at a higher position compared to the rest of the body.

  • If you are suffering from infection in left ear than try to sleep putting your body right side so that it reduces the pressure on the left ear and you experience less pain.
  • Do vice versa if you have pain in the right ear.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

There are no specific post-treatment guidelines for ear pain, although there are guidelines that you must follow while the treatment is going on. The most important guideline is to ensure that your ears do not get wet in any circumstance. This is because it can cause the infection to spread and can also contribute to further pain and blockages.

It is also generally advised not to sit in a flight or travel to high altitudes that will make your ears pop as your ears are generally sensitive during this time period and any random stimulus can increase your recovery time if you are not careful.

How long does it take to recover?

Most ear pain treatments last anywhere between 7-10 days. As you continue to take your medications, you will notice a gradual decrease in your symptoms or your pain on a daily basis until the whole thing is gone. If your ear pain is caused due to any other condition that you may be suffering from, then it takes much longer to recover. Until that condition is treated completely, the referral pain in your ear may not completely go away.

How to get rid of ear pain?

To get rid of the ear pain, you can opt for common home remedies. These remedies can effectively reduce pain without causing any side effects. Some of them:

  • Apply warm sesame oil infused with garlic extract into the ear canal
  • Release a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in the affected ear
  • Apply cold or warm compresses
  • Practice simple neck rotation exercise
  • Practice distraction to take the mind off the pain

What is the price of the treatment in India?

Ear drops are quite affordable in India. They range in price from Rs 30 to Rs 100, depending on the medication you are prescribed. The same goes for any oral medication that you might be taking in order to treat ear pain.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

Treating your ear pain can be permanent. In some case, ear infections do reoccur however, those infections are usually looked upon as a fresh infection rather than the same one coming back again. If your ear pain is the result of a different condition you may have, treating the pain alone will only work for a short period of time. Whether it takes days or weeks, the pain is bound to return to alert you of whatever condition you may be suffering from. Generic ear pain treatment results are normally permanent.

How to relieve ear pain?

These are various methods administered to relieve the ear pain based on cases

1. Relieve ear pain when swallowing

The ear pain caused while swallowing is usually due to an ear or throat infection. Therefore, the pain can be relieved by taking medication for the underlying condition. If the pain persists, consult your doctor.

2. Relieve ear pain when flying

You can follow the below-mentioned measures to ease ear pain that occurs while flying:

  • Try not to sleep while the plane lands
  • Pop a hard candy and suck it during takeoff and landing. You can also opt for chewing gum.
  • Another alternative is to yawn or swallow when the plane is ascending or descending.
  • Inhale and close your nostrils. Now, try to expel the air through your nose.

3. Relieve ear pain when chewing

The ear pain experienced while chewing can be a symptom of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. The condition and its symptoms including ear pain usually resolve on their own. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication can also be taken to get relief from the ear pain

How to soothe ear pain naturally?

There are many home remedies and alternative treatments that can be used in order to treat ear pain. Some of these are quite common and many people resort to using them before seeing a doctor. Natural remedies to soothe ear pain include:

  • Topical application of oil infused with herbs: Drop a few drops of olive oil into their ears while others drop tea tree oil. This is because both these oils have antibacterial and antibiotic properties and are great for fighting any infection that might be causing the pain.
  • Warm or cold compress: Apply a cold or warm compress to the ear to do away with the pain.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: It is another common household remedy for ear pain, followed by brandy (administered in the ear, not swallowed)
  • Sleep in an upright position
  • Chiropractic therapy

Though many home remedies are known for being successful, it is worth mentioning that it is always better to consult with a health care professional before administering any treatment as you may end up worsening the symptoms. As ear pain can be indicative of other ailments, it is in your best interests to get checked out by a doctor.

Is heat or ice better for ear pain?

Both heat and ice are effective for ear pain:

  • Cold pack and create numbness in the affected area by constricting the blood vessels. You can apply ice cubes by wrapping them in a cloth to avoid applying ice packs directly to the skin. Keep ice for 15-20 minutes for better relief.
  • Heat helps to reduce the pain by relaxing the muscle, you can apply a hot pad near the ear, throat, and neck region for 15-20 minutes for getting relief from pain.

Popular Questions & Answers

I am 22 years old, female, and i've knee, neck, backbone, waist pain for last 1 month. I have used pain relief ointment like volini, move for couple of days. And I also used arnica 30. But haven't got any relief. What should I do now? Please suggest homeopathy remedy to me. Thanks in advance.

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Hello user, you might have uti or proctitis, please see a doctor and he can prescribe you medications accordingly, in the meanwhile drink lots and lots of water, take meftal spas for pain relief.
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