Ear pain: remedies, what to do, symptoms and treatment

The condition is common and the causes are diverse. It is difficult to meet someone who has never had an episode of earache, even if it was in childhood.

Sometimes they are more common conditions, such as sensitivity due to the intense cold. Others are related to infections by viruses or bacteria. Therefore, investigating the causes of ear pain is essential to avoid misdiagnosis


What is earache?

Ear pain, or otalgia, is a common symptom of several conditions, whether or not related to the hearing aid. It may affect only one or both ears. Pain is described as burning, stinging or pressure , which can be constant or fluctuate.

This symptom can be caused by differences in the pressure of the middle and outer ears, infections or inflammations inside or outside the ear, and often the problem resolves itself in a short time.

However, there are cases in which the problem continues to develop and a visit to the doctor is necessary.

It is more common in children , for having a hearing tube considerably smaller than adults, in addition to the fact that their immune system is still developing.

Anatomy of the ear

To understand the causes of earache, you need to understand what their basic structures are and how they work. Are they:

  • Outer ear;
  • Middle ear;
  • Inner ear;
  • Hearing tube (Eustachian tube).

Outer ear

The outer part of the ear is formed by the ear, also called the auricular pavilion, which collects and directs the sound into the ear canal. The external auditory canal, in turn, directs sound waves towards the middle ear.

Middle ear

At the entrance to the middle ear, there is a thin membrane called the eardrum. Its function is to transmit the vibrations of the air to the smallest bones of the human body: the hammer, the anvil and the stirrup.

These bones vibrate and serve as a sound amplifier, which is then transmitted to the inner ear, through the oval window.

It is also in the middle ear that a structure called the Eustachian tube, or auditory tube, is found.

Inner ear

In the inner ear, there is the cochlea, a structure that looks like a snail’s shell. In it, there is a liquid and hair cells that move with the sound waves and send electrical impulses to the brain. These impulses are then received and interpreted by the brain, generating an understanding of the noises.

In this part, there are also some structures related to balance. Damage to these parts can easily cause labyrinthitis .

Hearing tubing

The Eustachian tube, or Eustachian tube, is a passage from the middle ear to the beginning of the throat, and its function is to allow air to penetrate the middle ear.

Air intake is extremely important so that the pressure inside the eardrum (middle ear) is equal to atmospheric pressure, which protects the integrity of the membrane and ensures that the hearing process in the middle ear is not impaired.

This structure is closed most of the time, and opens during moments of yawning, sneezing, chewing, among others that involve the jaw.

What are the types and causes of ear pain?

Ear pain can be caused by a number of conditions, the most common of which are viral or bacterial infections in the natural secretions of the ear (earwax). Sometimes it can be caused by the simple accumulation of mucus in the throat.

Better understand the causes of ear pain:


Barotrauma is a condition in which one feels discomfort due to uneven pressure in the ear. This happens when there is some blockage in the auditory tube (Eustachian tube), or when the external pressure changes abruptly and the ear is slow to adapt.

This difference causes discomfort and a temporary partial hearing loss. Some people experience a little pain in the eardrum area, which may be pushed in or out due to pressure.

This condition is extremely common during dives, takeoffs and aircraft landings. In other situations, barotrauma can be caused by excessive mucus production in the throat and nose. This is due to allergies, such as rhinitis and sinusitis , flu, colds and other types of infection.

Ear infections

The most common ear infections are actually from other common infections. They happen when viruses or bacteria from throat infections or colds rise through the ear tube. Thus, the eardrum becomes inflamed.

These infections are called ear infections and, when left untreated, can cause severe pain in the ear and hearing loss. In such cases, visiting the doctor is extremely important.

There are two types of ear infections:

  • Otitis externa: located in the outer ear;
  • Otitis media: located in the middle ear.

A potentially serious infection that can cause earache is malignant otitis externa, which can arise from otitis externa in people with weakened immune systems.


Some parts of the ear can be easily injured, which can cause pain. A common injury is perforation of the eardrum with objects, such as flexible rods.


Sinusitis can cause pain throughout the head, especially in the region that surrounds the eyes and surroundings. Therefore, the pain may extend to the ear. However, there is still another pain related to sinusitis, resulting from a complication.

In acute conditions, sinusitis can trigger the ear infection, known as otitis. This is because the accumulation of secretion retained in the nasal region can cause inflammation, pain and sensations of the locked ear.

The flu

The flu can be related to earaches caused by virus infection. In these cases, the agents reach the tissues and generate inflammation in the ear canal.

Other causes

Other possible causes are:

  • Foreign objects in the ear;
  • Jaw problems;
  • Blockage caused by the accumulation of earwax in the ear;
  • Wisdom tooth birth;
  • Temporomandibular dysfunction;
  • Trigeminal neuralgia ;
  • Bruxism .

Groups of risk

The biggest risk group for ear pain is children. There are two reasons why this symptom is more common in this group:

  1. The immune system is still developing;
  2. The auditory tube is considerably smaller in children than in adults, facilitating the obstruction and consequent infection of the site.

What are the symptoms of ear pain?

Because it is a symptom itself, ear pain is usually accompanied by other symptoms caused by the initial problem.

When it comes to barotrauma triggered by allergies, other common symptoms can appear, such as: sneezing, coughing , nasal congestion, etc. Accompanied by infections, there may be headache , sore throat , cough, sneezing, fever , among others. In such cases, the eardrum may show redness and swelling.

General symptoms that may accompany ear pain are:

  • Pain in the jaw;
  • Itch;
  • Buzz;
  • Vertigo.

How to Identify Ear Pain in Babies and Children

Babies and very young children have difficulty expressing that they have an earache. Therefore, parents should watch for signs that there may be something wrong in the child’s ear. Are they:

  • Babies can be irritated and cry easily;
  • Children can pull or rub one ear;
  • Lack of appetite;
  • Problems sleeping and restlessness at night;
  • Hearing difficulties;
  • Difficulty of balance in children who already walk;
  • Fever above 38º C;
  • Liquid being excreted through the ear canal;
  • Bad smell near the ear.


If the child has a stuck (stiff) neck, is too tired and has no reaction, see a doctor immediately.

When should I see a doctor?

In general, earaches are treated together with the treatment of other conditions that cause the symptom and, therefore, many people do not go to the doctor because of the earache itself, but because of other problems.

However, there are some cases in which ear pain is the biggest complaint, so the patient may not know when to see a doctor.

Ideally, professional help is sought when ear pain does not improve in a few days, when it gets worse in the first 48 hours, or when it is accompanied by more serious symptoms, such as bacterial infections.

The doctor should be consulted mainly in the presence of symptoms such as bad smell in the ear and secretions such as pus, blood and other than natural wax.

The professional to be sought is the otorhinolaryngologist , a doctor specialized in ear, nose and throat.

How is ear pain diagnosed?

When complaining of ear pain to the general practitioner or otorhinolaryngologist, the first thing the doctor does is to examine the ear with a device called an otoscope.

This device illuminates the region of the ear canal and allows the doctor to see if there are changes in the eardrum, in the walls of the outer ear, among others.

Depending on what is found, the doctor may order other tests to check for viruses or bacteria in the body, causing an infection.

The provider can examine other parts of the body for signs of infection. He can look at the throat, gently squeeze the neck for swollen lymph nodes, and use a stethoscope to listen to the lungs.

If necessary, hearing tests can be performed. In rare cases, ear fluid is collected for analysis, especially when the condition does not respond to treatment.

Imaging tests such as radiographs or CT scans are performed only on suspicion of tumors and other problems that may be damaging structures close to the ears.

Is earache curable?

Yes. Fortunately, most earaches resolve themselves in a few days. Those that have some more complex cause, such as infections or problems in the temporomandibular joint, may need more prolonged treatments.

Treatment: what good to relieve ear pain?

The treatment of ear pain depends on the cause. Often, the discomfort is only momentary and resolves quickly, without the need for medication intervention. However, even so, basic precautions, such as avoiding cold wind and strengthening immunity are necessary.

In other cases, the use of medication is indicated, eliminating the infection and ameliorating the symptoms. Analgesic, antipyretic (in case of infections with fever) and anti-inflammatory drugs can be used.

Drugs in drops (topical use)

Topical medications in drops or ointments act at the application site. They can act by inhibiting the growth of bacteria or infectious agents and facilitating the elimination of secretions.

There are options that act as anesthetics, reducing pain and discomfort.

These drugs are dripped or applied directly to the ear canal.

Oral remedies (tablets)

Systemic remedies are, in general, pills or syrups, which help in eliminating the infection. They can also be anesthetic or anti-inflammatory, capable of accelerating the body’s recovery.

Medicines: what is the best medicine for ear pain?

The best earache remedy depends on what is causing the pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs, pain relievers, wax cleaners and even antibiotics can be prescribed . Therefore, it is up to the doctor to evaluate which is the best option for the patient, aiming to reduce symptoms and eliminate infections more quickly.

Painkillers and anti-inflammatories

Painkillers help to ease pain and discomfort. Some may have an anti-inflammatory action and assist in the recovery process.

Between them:

  • Paracetamol ;
  • Ibuprofen .


Antibiotics are prescribed when bacterial presence is confirmed. Among those that can be used are:

  • Ostoporin ;
  • Panotil ;
  • Otosynalar .

Wax removers

Wax removers are topical medications that must be applied directly to the ear canal. They facilitate the cleaning of the ears, eliminating excessive wax. Between them:

  • Cerumin ;
  • Aceratum ;
  • Oticerin .


NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained in this website is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.

Ear Pain Surgery: Is It An Option?

Yes, but not for everyone. Surgery for ear pain is indicated when there is a relationship with recurrent inflammation or structural changes in the region.

For example, ear infections, which are persistent and extensive inflammation, can be treated surgically.

However, only a careful evaluation can determine the effectiveness of the surgery.

Home remedies: what to do for ear pain?

When there is no need to directly treat the cause of the pain, many people use home remedies to relieve the pain. While some practices should not be done, as they can further damage the ear, there are others that can be beneficial.

Check out some safe home remedy alternatives:

Hot compress

To soothe an inflammation, warm temperatures help. Therefore, a compress with a warm cloth may be a good idea. You should dip a clean cloth in the hot water – but not peeling it -, twist it and then place it over the ear that is hurting.

You can intercalate the hot compress with a cold compress, each lasting 15 minutes.

Jumps and pats

Jumping and patting on the opposite side of the head can help to unclog the ear, as in the case of water accumulation.

Chew, yawn and make mouth movements

Due to the fact that the auditory tube opens with chewing movements, yawning, among others, chewing gum and other foods that can be chewed or pretend to be yawning may be a good idea to try to equalize the pressure inside the ear.

Inhalation of natural vapor

When the cause of the pain is congestion, inhaling steam can help drain mucus from the nose and Eustachian tube.

To do this type of inhalation, you need a basin and a bath towel. Put half of the hot water in the basin. This hot water can be pure or mixed with essential oils like eucalyptus or mint.

Some prefer to mix the tea from these leaves with the water. Then, place the bath towel over your head, forming a kind of hut between your head and the basin, and breathe in the steam that the water releases.


None of these home remedies is a substitute for treatment under the supervision of a doctor, and should be taken as a provisional measure until you can go to the consultation.

What not to do when you have an earache?

When having an earache, the first thing that many think of doing is trying to clean the ear with flexible rods or other objects. This should not be done, as it can push the wax back into the ear and, even worse, hurt and even pierce the eardrum.

Nor should liquids be placed inside the ear canal. Some recipes for home remedies mention various oils, teas and liquids that can be added.

However, there is no evidence that these fluids are effective and that they are not harmful to the ear canal . Therefore, it is recommended to avoid these recipes that involve the application of anything inside the ear.

The patient should not delay to go to the doctor if he perceives a worsening in the symptoms or to spend more than 3 days without any improvement.

What are the complications caused by ear pain?

In most cases, there are no complications associated with ear pain, except for those related to infections in general. However, a specific type of ear infection can have serious consequences.

The malignant otitis externa is an evolution of otitis externa affecting mainly people with weakened immune systems such as children, the elderly, people undergoing chemotherapy, taking immunosuppressants and diabetics.

In this infection, the bacterium advances further into the ear canal and causes damage to adjacent tissues. It can bring damage to the temporal bone, jaw, and even nerves in the skull.

How to prevent ear pain?

Because it is a symptom, the best way to prevent ear pain is to avoid the diseases that cause it. This prevention must be done through simple measures such as the adoption of hygienic habits that help in fighting viruses, bacteria and fungi, thus avoiding contamination.

Some measures that help to prevent infections are:

  • Do not share glasses, cutlery or personal effects;
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently, as this helps to eliminate microorganisms from the skin;
  • Use wet wipes when you cannot wash your hands under running water;
  • Reduce exposure to irritating agents that can cause allergies, such as pollen, dust, animal hair, among others;
  • Avoid cigarette smoke.

It is recommended that allergic patients always have their antiallergic remedies with them, for any eventuality.

Ear pain is a common problem that can affect everyone, at any age. However, there are few who understand its true causes and the commonly recommended treatments.

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