Alex O'Brien


5 of the most common causes or earaches

5 of the most common causes or earaches

People often make an immediate association between earache and ear infection. However, discomfort in and around the ear can be caused by many different problems. This guide will cover the more common reasons for an ear ache.

1. Otitis externa

Otis externa – also known as “swimmers ear” – is an inflammation of the outer ear and ear canal. Unlike other forms of ear infections, the pain of acute external otitis is worsened when the outer ear is touched or pulled gently and is usually caused by skin problems of swimming in polluted water.

2. A boil or infected hair follicle in the ear canal

These mostly occur for no apparent reason. It usually clears without treatment, but painkillers and antibiotic medicines are sometimes needed. Tips on how to help prevent further episodes are given below.

3. Eczema in the ear canal

Eczema of dermatitis of the ear canal is characterised by pruritis, scaling, flaking, and erythema of the skin of ear canal. Dermatitis can be caused by exposure to allergens or can be spontaneous. Avoidance of triggers and use of topical medications are needed for treatment.

4. Throat infections (including tonsillitis) and colds

When an earache and sore throat occur at the same time, it usually means that the infection began in the ear and then spread to the throat or vice versa. The ears and throat are anatomically connected via the Eustachian tube, which makes them both susceptible to infection. 

5. Trigeminal neuralgia or facial nerve pain

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a painful, chronic condition involving the trigeminal nerve that affects mostly people over sixty. It causes intense pain in part or all of the face, including the ears. Several medications are available to provide relief from pain and to decrease the number of episodes. Sometimes surgery is required.

Do you remember the worst ear ache you ever had? Share your stories in the comments below.

Related links:

How to safely remove earwax

Understanding long-term hearing damage

Can exercise damage your hearing?