This is probably the most common cause or earache and ear pain, and common types include:
Glue ear happens when the normally air-filled space in the middle ear fills with fluid. Common symptoms of this condition include temporary hearing loss and earache from the pressure of the fluid build-up.
If you’ve ever had ear pain when flying, this can be as a result of what’s known as ear barotrauma. This happens when changes in the air pressure block or constrict the tiny tubes found behind the eardrum (Eustachian tubes).
Sometimes the earwax we naturally produce builds up and can become impacted in the ear. This can cause earache or pain until it is safely removed. It’s important that you don’t try to remove earwax yourself, as you could damage your eardrum.
If you have a sort throat, tonsilitis or quinsy (an abscess at the back of the throat), you may have ear pain when swallowing.
Sometimes earache or ear pain can be caused by a problem with your jaw bone (called temporomandibular joint syndrome), like if you have arthritis or you grind your teeth.
If a child is teething or you have a dental abscess (an infection that causes a collection of pus in the teeth or gums), there can sometimes be associated pain in the ear.
You might have experienced some mild earache after you’ve been outdoors on a cold and windy day. This will improve on its own after you’ve warmed up a bit.
How to get rid of ear pain
Treatment for ear pain isn’t always necessary, and it can go away on its own after a few minutes, hours or days. In the meantime, there are some things you can try at home to make the pain feel better:
Take over-the-counter pain relievers as recommended
Apply a warm or cold compress to the affected ear
Try sleeping propped up against some pillows rather than lying completely straight or on one side
When you’re flying, try chewing gum or sucking on a sweet during take-off and landing when the air pressure change affects you the most
If your earache or pain is ever bothering you, it’s best to go and see your pharmacist or GP for advice on how best to treat it. They’ll be able to identify the cause of the pain and might suggest taking a course of antibiotics in order to clear an infection, or some other methods to make you feel more comfortable.
Ear pain in children
Young children tend to be more prone to earache or ear pain. This can be because the size and position of their Eustachian tubes mean that they’re more likely to develop ear infections. Earache can also be a common development or symptom of a cold.
You should go and see your GP if your child’s earache lasts more than three days, they have a fever or they’re feeling sick with it, or if their ear(s) is swollen or has any fluid coming from it.
Diagnosing ear pain in children
Earache or ear pain is very common in children, especially if they’ve recently had a cold. When they’re a bit too young to tell you what’s wrong, there are some signs you can look out for:
Rubbing or pulling on their ear
High temperature or fever
Restlessness and trouble sleeping
Trouble hearing certain sounds
How long does earache last?
This will depend on its underlying cause, but most cases will last a few days.
How do I relieve pain from an earache?
Over-the-counter pain relief, like paracetamol or ibuprofen, will help with pain from an earache, or you could try using a hot or cold compress over the ear.
What can I do if my ear hurts?
You could try taking some pain relief (like paracetamol or ibuprofen) or putting a hot or cold compress over the affected ear. If the pain lasts longer than a couple of days, it’s best to go and see your pharmacist or GP for some advice.
- What is earache a sign of?
What does it mean when your ear and jaw hurts?
Ear and jaw pain can sometimes be linked – this is called referred pain. You might have pain in the joint of your jaw from clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth that can lead to ear discomfort.