In this article, we will describe the causes of ear pain.

Anatomy of the ear

The ear is divided into:

Outer ear

This is the part of the ear visible on the outside and consists of:

  • Headquarters,
  • External auditory canal.

The sound hits the pavilion and is channeled in through the ear canal.


Middle ear

The middle ear is formed by:

  • Eardrum, a membrane that vibrates when it is reached by sound;
  • Ossicular chain formed by: hammer, anvil and stirrup, which move inside a small air chamber, amplify the vibration of the eardrum and are connected to the inner ear;
  • Eustachian tube that connects the middle ear to the back of the nose: this channel opens and closes when the person swallows or yawns, helping to compensate for any pressure difference between the middle ear and the external environment.


Inner ear

The inner ear is formed by:

  • Cochlea , a spiral-filled channel filled with fluid: it is the organ of hearing and is connected to the acoustic nerve that transmits the auditory signals to the brain;
  • Vestibular system , it is the system that sends to the brain information about the position of the body and about the movements, and allows to maintain the balance .


Pain in the outer ear

Generally, this type of pain is caused by:

  • trauma to the ear,
  • An external otitis ,
  • An infection of the outer ear and an obstruction of the ear canal.


Ear trauma

An injury or trauma to the outer ear often causes severe pain, such as:

  • fracture ,
  • A concussion,
  • A cut,
  • To piercing.

The habit of using hair clips and cotton swabs to remove wax or scratching the ear causes skin lesions : from these wounds an infection and even an abscess may develop . 
Also, a mandibular fracture causes significant pain in the ear.

Obstruction of the ear canal
An obstructed ear canal produces pain in the outer ear. The obstruction is usually caused by:

  • plug of cerumen ,
  • An insect,
  • A foreign body inserted accidentally in this place, common in children.

Other symptoms of ear canal obstruction include:

How to remove an insect from the ear?

  • Bend your head to the side opposite the sore ear,
  • Pour a teaspoon of heated oil (temperature about 40 ° C) into the ear canal; the eardrum has a temperature of 37 ° C and cold oil can cause pain,
  • Wait two minutes; the insect can not survive in oil,
  • Bend your head to the side of the treated ear,
  • Wait for the oil and insect to come out.


Otitis externa or swimmer’s ear

The main cause of external ear pain is the growth of bacteria and more rarely of fungi in the ear canal.

The external otitis is common among patients:

  • They use hearing aids;
  • They suffer from skin diseases such as psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis ;
  • They swim in the sea or polluted waters of ponds, pools and rivers, but also swim in the pool. 
    Sometimes, as long as the person swims, a small amount of water enters the ear and gets stuck for days: this favors the proliferation of fungi and bacteria . For this reason, the disease is known as the swimmer’s ear.

Otitis can be acute or chronic.

The most common swimmer’s ear symptoms are:

  • The patient feels pain when he / she touches the external earphone (for example, when talking on the phone),
  • In many cases, ear pain begins after a itching sensation in the ear canal,
  • The outer ear swells or turns red,
  • Swollen lymph nodes around the ear,
  • Partial deafness in the diseased ear,
  • There may be a discharge of yellow-green pus from the ear,
  • In some cases, fever occurs .


Prevention of otitis externa

  • The swimmer’s ear can be avoided by thoroughly wiping the ears after swimming.
  • If the water remains in the ears, it is possible to put a few drops of a solution of ethyl alcohol and vinegar in equal amounts on each ear. 
    It is important to consult a physician before using ear drops to prevent or treat the swimmer’s ear . 
    Alcohol is used to dry the ear canal and vinegar creates a slightly acid pH in the ear canal, preventing the growth and reproduction of bacteria or fungi.
  • The patient who already suffers from a severe earache should refrain from using alcohol or alcohol-based products because they aggravate the pain sensation.
  • It is possible to use earplugs for swimming, although they are not very effective in relieving pain. It is also strictly necessary to avoid swimming in polluted waters.


How long does it last? The prognosis

With proper treatment, the patient should heal in about a week, but in case of complications (malignant or necrotizing external otitis) the duration is longer and there is a risk of nerve damage and paralysis of the face and head.


Pain in the inner ear

Within the structures of the ear, nose and throat are complex mechanisms that interact to allow a person to:

  • Send sounds,
  • Listen,
  • Keep the balance,
  • Cheire,
  • breathe,
  • Swallow.


Otitis media

It is inflammation of the middle ear, usually caused by an infection. 
Examination with the otoscope – In the image to the right, it is possible to see the eardrum of a patient suffering from otitis media:

  • Swollen,
  • Matt,
  • Red.

The infection may result from Eustachian tube obstruction caused by:

This is the most common cause of ear pain. 
Among the symptoms of otitis media are:

Ear pain and otitis media accompany or follow the cold , especially in children. 
Examination of the ear with the otoscope may be useful in the diagnosis of otitis media; there is a swollen tympanum outside.


Subacute thyroiditis

Subacute thyroiditis or thyroiditis of De Quervain is an inflammation of the thyroid gland . 
This gland is in the anterior part of the neck and produces several hormones.

Symptoms of Subacute Thyroiditis Subacute 
thyroiditis causes severe pain in the thyroid gland. 
In some cases, this pain may spread:

  • For other areas of the neck,
  • For the ears,
  • To jaw .

The thyroid may be swollen and painful to the touch. 
Other symptoms of subacute thyroiditis include:

Some causes of ear pain may be:

  • A tumor,
  • Cellulite, a skin infection that can be caused by a piercing.


Pain in the ear and head

There are several causes of pain in the ear and  head ; in addition, a person may have these two symptoms for different reasons. 
We explain here two diseases that can cause ear pain and headache together.


Neurinoma of the acoustic nerve

1) Neuronoma of the acoustic nerve

The neuronoma of the acoustic nerve (or vestibular schwannoma) is a benign tumor that forms in the nerve that connects the brain and ear. 
This mass can grow to cause damage to important nerves.

Acne Neuronoma Symptoms
Symptoms occur only when the tumor becomes large and presses the surrounding nerves. 
One of the most common symptoms is progressive hearing  loss (hearing loss) in one ear, but it may start suddenly.

The other symptoms are:

Among the rarer symptoms are:


2) Mastoidite

The mastoid process is a protuberance of the temporal bone that lies behind the auricular pavilion. 
The cells of this bone are connected to the middle ear. 
In the case of otitis media , the infection may extend to the mastoid and may cause mastoiditis, that is, an inflammation of the bone of the mastoid process. 
The symptoms at the affected ear level are:

  • Secretions,
  • Ear pain,
  • Loss of hearing,
  • Redness ,
  • Swelling.

Other symptoms of mastoiditis are:


Home Remedies for Earache

Garlic and olive oil

Prepare a mixture with:

  • A clove of peeled and chopped garlic ,
  • 2/3 tablespoons of olive oil in a glass jar.


  • First strain the oil with a fine sieve,
  • Heat the mixture a little,
  • Then let cool,
  • It is possible to put 3-4 drops of this mixture into the ear, morning, afternoon and evening.


Fresh Peppermint Juice

Another natural remedy for ear pain is fresh mint juice:

  • It is necessary to crush a dozen leaves of peppermint to extract the juice,
  • Pour the mint juice into a cotton pad,
  • Put on the sore ear.


Boric acid

Put two or three drops of boricated water in the ears. Then after a few minutes, dry the ear: this prevents the accumulation of earwax in the ear .


White wine and water vinegar

  • Prepare a solution with the same amount of white wine vinegar and water,
  • Put a few drops on the sore ears,
  • Gently dry the outer ear with absorbent paper or a towel.

This preparation relieves pain and reduces inflammation.


Tea Tree Oil

The antibacterial properties of tea tree oil can quickly relieve ear pain. 
To treat otitis :


  • Three drops of Tea tree oil,
  • Two tablespoons of olive oil ,
  • One teaspoon of colloidal silver,
  • One teaspoon of apple cider vinegar,
  • Heat the mixture lightly.


  • Lie down on your side with your head on a pillow,
  • With an eyedropper, pour the mixture into the ear,
  • Wait five minutes,
  • Then turn to the opposite side to let the mixture come out.

Repeat two or three times a day for two days.



The onion can be useful in case of infection in the ear:

  • Cut an onion into small pieces.
  • Put in a bowl.
  • Heat in the microwave oven for one to two minutes.
  • Let cool.
  • Extract the juice from the onion.
  • Put two or three drops of juice on the infected ear.
  • Wait 5 minutes.
  • Turn the head to allow fluid to flow out of the ear.

These medicines can also be used during pregnancy . 
Do not use ice for ear pain.

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