Many different conditions can cause ear pain. Some are directly related to the ear, and other types of pain can be caused by issues in the body near the ear. Let’s look at a few of the most common causes, as well as when to see a doctor.
Middle Ear Infections
Middle ear infections, also known as otitis media (OM), are infections in the middle ear right behind the eardrum. They’re much more common in children than adults but can occur in people of any age. Typically, a person develops an ear infection after having a viral respiratory infection. Less commonly, they can be caused by a bacterial infection.
In addition to ear pain, common signs of an infection are fever, fluid drainage, and in some cases, temporary hearing loss. If your child is young, you might notice that they seem fussier or are pulling at their ear.
While ear infections often clear up on their own, contact a medical provider to see if antibiotics might be needed.
Swimmer’s ear, or otitis externa (OE), occurs when the skin in the ear canal becomes infected. It occurs when water gets trapped in the ear canal and causes an infection. As the name suggests, it commonly happens after swimming, though it can happen after a bath or shower as well.
You can take precautions to try and avoid OE by making sure to clean and dry your ears after a swim at Paradise Valley Pool. If you develop an infection, symptoms typically include ear pain, swelling of the ear canal and fluid discharge.
See a doctor if you believe that you or your child has developed swimmer’s ear. Antibiotic drops are usually prescribed and are very effective. Research has shown that approximately 65-90% of swimmer’s ear cases will resolve in 7-10 days of topical antibiotic use.
Earwax buildup can cause pressure and pain in your ear, as well as cause muffled hearing in the affected ear. It’s more common among older individuals, especially those who use hearing aids. This is because objects in the ear can block earwax from moving out of the ear naturally.
If you suspect earwax buildup, do not try to remove it yourself with a cotton swab. That can cause you to push wax further back into your ear, causing impaction and possible injury. Instead, make an appointment with an ENT for earwax removal.
Not all ear pain is ear related. If you experience a sharp, stabbing pain in your ear, it may be due to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. You may also have pain or tenderness in your jaw, difficulty chewing and facial pain. If your doctor suspects your ear pain is actually due to TMJ, they will refer you to a dentist for treatment.
For more information or to schedule an appointment to get your ears checked by one of our specialists, call Arizona Desert Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists today.