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Earaches – symptoms, causes, triggers and other risk factors

Earaches is one of the most uncomfortable conditions. This is one of the most common problems all around the world. In the most cases this condition is happening in children but also you can get it even you are an adult. You might think that this condition is worrying but in the most cases this condition is caused by a minor infection. In the most cases, earaches will be getting better in a period of few days and usually does not need medical help. It can affect the both ears but in the most cases we have earache just on one ear.  It can come and go or it can be constant. The pain may be sharp, dull or burning. In some cases when people have ear infection, then they have fever or they can lose their hearing in some period. Young children who suffer from this condition are tending to be irritable and fussy. They also can rub their ears or tug at their ears. There are many remedies which you can use about this condition.

Symptoms of earaches

  • Irritability
  • Ear pain
  • Increased crying
  • Fever
  • Fussiness

Causes for earaches

Referred pain, infection, injury or irritation in the ear can lead to earaches. When people are talking about the referred pain, then this means that they have pain on some place other than the site of injury or infection. [1] The pain which originates in teeth or jaw also can be felt in your ear. The most common causes for earaches are

Use of cotton swabs in the ear

  • Ear infection: If this is the cause for the earache, then there is pus – like fluid or a watery fluid which is coming out of your ear. The middle ear infections and the outer ear infections are one of the most common causes for this infection. In the most cases the ear infections are going on its own but also there are some cases when you need to talk with your doctor about this problem. [2]

Shampoo or water trapped in ear

  • Glue ear: It can cause you temporary hearing loss because there is a fluid build – up inside of your ear. In the most cases this is not painful condition but also it can cause you earache because there is a pressure which the fluid is giving to your ear. [3]

Sinus infection

  • Damage to the ear: If you are using a cotton bud which is scraping the earwax from your ear because you put the cotton bud too deep in your ear, then you are causing an injury which is located inside of your ear. This method also can puncture your eardrum. Our ear canal is very sensitive part of our ears which means that you can damage it very easily. When you have this kind of problem, then your ear should heal on its own without any kind of treatment. But if you have perforated eardrum, then this problem can take up to two months to heal. Also if you have this problem, then you should not use eardrops. [4]

A foreign object in the ear

  • Throat infections: If you have a sore throat or you are painful to swallow, then the earache can be symptom of throat infections such as quinsy or tonsillitis. There are some cases when tonsillitis is going on its own and you do not need to use any kind of antibiotics. If you have quinsy, then you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. [5]

Also there are other causes for earaches which are not so common such as [6]

  • Chronic facial nerve pain (trigeminal neuralgia)
  • TMJ syndrome (Temporo Mandibular Joint syndrome)
  • Eczema in the ear canal
  • Arthritis affecting the jaw
  • Impacted tooth
  • Infected tooth


Not in every case when your children have earaches you should talk with your doctor. In the most cases the pain which is caused by this condition is improving in a period of few days. If you have a persistent fever of 1040F or higher, then you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. Also if you have noticed that something is stuck in your child’s ear, then you should talk with your doctor. If your earache does not improve in a period of few days, then you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

Triggers: There are many factors which can trigger your earaches such as

  • Injury or trauma
  • Allergens or other irritants
  • Loud and sudden noise [7]
  • Change in air pressure
  • Foreign object in the ear
  • Cold or upper respiratory illness


[1] Taziki MH, Behnampour N. A study of the etiology of referred otalgia. Iranian Journal of Otorhinolaryngology. 2012;24(69):171–6.

[2] Mann E. How to diagnose and manage primary and secondary earache and ear infections. The Pharmaceutical Journal. 2017.

[3] Venekamp RP, Burton MJ, van Dongen TMA, et al. Antibiotics for otitis media with effusion (‘glue ear’) in children. Cochrane. 2016. Retrieved from

[4] Ah-see KW, Evans AS. Sinusitis and its management. BMJ. 2007;334(7589):358–61. doi:10.1136/bmj.39092.679722.BE

[5] Rughani S. Case-based learning: sore throat. The Pharmaceutical Journal. 2019.

[6] Ely JW, Hansen MR, Clark EC. Diagnosis of ear pain. American Family Physician. 2008;77(5):621-8.

[7] World Health Organization. Hearing loss due to recreational exposure to loud sounds: A review. Retrieved from

Hanan Marshal
Hanan Marshal
Hanan, a medical student (MBBS) having passion for writing and is very much interested in holistic living along with nature. He is very much interested in doing community service and watches anime and play PS4 during his free time. You can reach him through [email protected]


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