Ear infection and ear pain caused due to the same, is much common in children. One of the common causes of ear pain in adults is middle ear infection or minor injury to the ear canal. Apart from these, ear pain in adults can be a symptom of problems in other areas like jaws, throat, etc. It can often be a referred pain caused due to temporomandibular joint dysfunction, tooth infection, etc. Mentioned below are the probable causes of ear pain experienced by adults.
Causes of Ear Pain
- Outer ear (canal) infection - acute, chronic, or malignant
- Middle ear infection - acute or chronic
- Ear injury from pressure changes
- Object stuck in the ear
- Impacted earwax
- Ruptured or perforated eardrum
- Scrapped ear canal skin
- Inflammation of eardrum
- Sinus infection
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
- Throat infection
- Tooth infection
Adult Ear Infection
Adult ear infections are caused due to infection in Eustachian tube, near the inner ear. This ear tube equalizes pressure between ear and external environment, but when fluid or mucous builds up in this ear tube, it leads to infection and ear pain. Even cold can cause fluid buildup leading to an ear infection. Ear infection is also caused if mucus is being blown into the Eustachian tubes after blowing nose or if the liquid is not cleaned out of ear using cotton swabs after taking shower. Viruses often cause an ear infection followed by ear pain and such infections are sometimes difficult to cure.
Ear Pain while Flying
Differences of pressure in ear can cause ear pain when flying. People experience ear pain while flying or while diving, due to the difference in pressure between middle ear and the outside environment. The Eustachian tube connects middle ear to the back of your nose. This tube opens and closes while we swallow or yawn and this movement helps equalize the pressure between middle ear and the outside environment. If Eustachian tube is not functioning properly, negative pressure develops in the middle ear leading to ear problems like blocked ear, ear pain, slight hearing loss, or ear pressure.
Ear Pain while Chewing, Swallowing, or Yawning
Ear pain when swallowing is often caused due to sore throat. The Eustachian tube, which keeps fluid out of the middle ear, is connected to the throat. Swelling of this tube due to sore throat leads to a blockage, causing pressure in ear, which in turn, leads to ear pain when swallowing.
Ear pain is one of the common symptoms of TMJ dysfunction. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your lower jaw with temporal bone of skull and this is the primary joint responsible for movement of lower and upper jaws which is required for bringing them together. Temporomandibular joint disorder is characterized by sharp pain in ear, especially while swallowing, chewing, or yawning. Tooth abscess is another common cause of ear pain. Often pain from the wisdom tooth area also leads to ear pain. Such a referred ear pain is usually experienced while eating or even while opening mouth.
Home Remedies for Ear Pain
- Sleep on one side so that the affected ear is facing upwards. This will also help alleviate any pressure and give relief.
- Take a cotton cloth and moisten it with hot water. Hold it near your ear so that the heat from the cloth helps soothe ear pain.
- Chewing gum will help movement of the Eustachian tubes. This will further help loosen and relieve pressure in the ear and alleviate ear pain.
- Garlic juice offers an effective home remedy for ear pain. Sleep on a side, with affected ear facing upwards and put a few drops of garlic juice in it.
- Warm a little olive oil or mineral oil. Using a dropper, put two to three drops of the same into your ear. Now place a cotton ball in your ear opening so that the oil doesn't come out. This remedy will help you get relief from ear pain.
You can try the above tips for ear pain remedies before you consult a doctor. Remember that ear pain is not always a result of an ear problem. As the same can often be a referred pain, identifying the underlying cause properly is essential to get the right treatment. If you are in doubt about its cause or if the pain is becoming persistent, you must immediately consult a doctor.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for educating the reader, and should not be considered as a substitute for an expert medical advice.