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Earache Causes

Earaches are common, especially in children. They can cause a sharp, dull or burning pain in the ear that comes and goes or remains constant. Both ears can be affected at the same time, but untreated earaches usually go away after a few days. Here is a look at the most common causes of earaches.

Ear Infections

Infections of the outer and middle ear are very common causes of earache. A sign of an ear infection is water or pus-like fluid that comes out of the ear. Ear infections can go away on their own in a few days or weeks, but your doctor can also prescribe antibiotics or eardrops to treat the infection. 

Otitis Media

Otitis media, also called glue ear, is characterized as a buildup of fluid deep within the ear. It can cause some hearing loss, though usually temporary. Generally, otitis media is painless, but the pressure from the fluid buildup can cause earache.
The ear condition will often take a few months to clear up on its own. However, a minor procedure that involves placing small tubes (grommets) in the ear to help drain the fluid is an option if otitis media becomes persistent.  

Ear Injury

An injury inside of the ear can sometimes cause earache. The ear canal can be easily damaged because of how sensitive it is. It can heal on its own, but it may take up to 2 months if the eardrum has been punctured.

Earwax or an Object in the Ear

Earache can be caused by a buildup of earwax or when an object is stuck inside the ear. If there is something stuck inside your or your child’s ear and it’s causing you pain, do not remove it yourself—you may end up pushing it further inside and damaging your eardrum.
Eardrops can help with earwax buildup by softening it so that it falls out. Sometimes, your doctor may need to remove the earwax after it has been softened with eardrops by flushing the ear with water (ear irrigation).

Throat Infections

Earache is sometimes a symptom of a throat infection such as tonsillitis or quinsy, which is an abscess on one side of the back of your throat, making it hard to swallow. The pressure from the infection in the throat can be extensive enough to cause pain in the ear. 

Jaw Pain (TMJ)

A problem with the joint of your jaw that connects your jaw to your skull (the temporomandibular joint) can cause jaw pain and earache. Common causes of TMJ are arthritis and teeth grinding. In order for earache to go away, jaw pain will need to be treated. Jaw pain is typically treated with painkiller, warm or cold compresses, and mouth guards to prevent teeth grinding at night.

A Dental Abscess

A dental abscess is recognized as a buildup of pus that forms in your teeth or gums due a bacterial infection. This mainly causes intense and throbbing pain in the affected tooth, but the pain can sometimes spread to your ear. A dental abscess is treated by your dentist who will remove the abscess and drain the pus.

Last Updated: September 13, 2016