Ear pain or earache is a common medical problem that affects people of all ages. Medically referred to as otalgia, it can be caused due to outer or middle ear related problems like blockage, nerve disorders, injuries, and infections. Apart from these, there are several cases of ear discomfort that are directed from other body parts. Ear pain resulting from pain in some other part (other than ear) of the body is known as 'referred ear pain'. Many people report severe pain in ear canal when chewing and swallowing. Identifying the cause of the pain helps determine the treatment.
Causes of Ear Pain While Swallowing
This case of earache is usually associated with other symptoms like pressure in the ear while coughing and yawning. Perception of ear pain at the time of swallowing food can be correlated to irritation of the nerves, which are involved during swallowing and at the same time, connected to the ear directly or distantly.
Ear infections are one of the obvious causes of earache, irrespective of when the symptom is aggravated. In such a case, afflicted patients may experience earache while chewing, swallowing, or indulging in any other activity that involves movement of the areas surrounding the ear. Ear pain caused due to infection is accompanied with fluid discharge from the ear and running high temperature.
Blocked Eustachian Tube
Eustachian tube is a small canal that connects the middle ear with the upper throat and back of the nose. It functions as an equalizer to regulate the air pressure inside the middle ear and outside environment. This tube opens while swallowing and yawning. Thus, blockage or dysfunction of the Eustachian tube can lead to inner earache when swallowing.
Mumps is a less common but highly contagious disease, which is caused due to viral infections. Even though ear pain while swallowing is not directly related to mumps, painful sensation in the ear is a commonly manifested sign of this viral disease. An afflicted patient may go through sharp otalgia when chewing rather than during swallowing foods and drinks.
Tonsillitis refers to infection in the tonsils that are situated at the back of the throat. Common symptoms of tonsillitis are mild to severe throat pain and difficulty in swallowing. If tonsillitis is caused by bacterial infection, then earache complication is usually observed. Thus, in such a case, a tonsillitis patient may experience ear pain when swallowing along with general symptoms of sore throat.
Peritonsillar Abscess (Quincy)
Peritonsillar abscess, a major complication of tonsillitis, is another cause for both sore throat and ear pain at the time of swallowing food. Individuals suffering from this condition manifest inability to open their mouth along with other symptoms like fever and malaise.
Throat pain or sore throat is often associated with ear pain, as the middle ear and throat are anatomically connected by the cranial nerves (IX and X). This is the main reason as to why some people experience sharp earache when swallowing (due to sore throat or strep throat). Those having contact ulcers may also feel ear pain during swallowing of foods and drinks.
Thermal laryngitis is caused due to heat injury to the larynx. It affects the laryngeal mucosa, resulting in sore throat, pain in swallowing, hoarse voice, ear pain and at times, breathing problems.
One of the noticeable symptoms for sinusitis is ear pain and / or stuffiness in the ears. Very rarely, earache related to swallowing food is related to sinusitis. In such a case, the pathogens responsible for causing sinus infections progress further to the throat causing throat infection. Because of this, the usual sinusitis symptoms may also be accompanied with earache at the time of swallowing.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis and Treatment
Like any other health conditions, timely diagnosis and treatment of ear pain is the thumb rule to prevent further complications. The same applies to earache at the time of chewing or swallowing food; a qualified physician can only identify the exact reason behind this ear discomfort. In majority of the cases, ear pain cause can be traced to the medical history of the patient after proper physical examination.
Based on the diagnostic result of ear pain, the physician will prescribe appropriate medications for the treatment of this condition. For example, if strep throat is the main earache cause, antibiotics are recommended for treatment of the throat infection. Many times, positive responses are observed with natural earache remedy. Some of the effective home remedies for ear pain relief are warm compresses and applying warm garlic oil, olive oil, or vegetable oil to the affected ear.
If fluid or pus drainage from ear occurs, you should avoid putting oil and ear drops, as it can worsen the ear problem. Also, while lying down or sleeping, make sure that the painful ear side is not facing down.
In case the ear pain is severe and does not subside within two to three days after practicing home remedies for earache, then it is always recommended to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Hope you have given an attentive ear to what I have explained.
This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.