Ear pain is referred to as otalgia in medical terms. There are many conditions that may cause one to experience a sharp pain in ear. Many times the causes are minor, and fade away without medical treatment. However, occasionally, it may be an indication of a serious condition such as a ruptured eardrum or the presence of tumors.
Causes of Sharp Ear Pain
One of the most common causes of ear pain is an allergy. Seasonal allergies can cause the Eustachian tube within the ear to become inflamed and blocked. This causes mucous and fluids produced in the middle ear to accumulate, giving an opportunity for the bacteria to grow and cause a painful ear infection. Allergies such as allergic rhinitis, allergic sinusitis, or those trigger by pollen grain, dander, dust and mite, chemicals, etc. may lead to inflammation of the nasal, ear, and lung passages.
Cerumen or earwax is produced by the outer ear to keep the ear canal healthy. It helps prevent dust, microorganisms and other harmful substances from gaining entry in the ear. It also helps in maintaining the pH balance of the ear canal. When one's ear begins to produce excessive earwax, it may lead to a dried buildup. This causes the earwax to act as a plug and cause pain. One may even get a feeling of fullness or hear sounds within the ear. In extreme cases, it may result in hearing loss. If your earwax buildup is deep, you need to visit a doctor, who will remove the earwax and get rid of the ear pain. Remember, it can be very harmful if you try to remove the buildup at home.
Outer Ear Infection
Swimmers may suffer from an infection of the outer ear or the otitis externa. This kind of ear pain is known as swimmer's ear. This condition causes outer ear to hurt, making it red and itchy. One may also suffer from scaly and flaky skin in the ear. This infection needs medical help and use of medications like ibuprofen and acetominophen. The use of antibiotic ear drops may help get rid of infections caused by Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, or Candida. In some cases, viral infections such as herpes zoster, or viral myringitis may lead to pain.
Middle Ear Infection
The infection of the middle ear is referred to as otitis media. This infection causes pulling and shooting pain along with decrease in hearing capacity. The pain increases in intensity during the night. This is a very common cause of ear pain in children. One needs medical help and use of antibiotics prescribed by the doctor, to gain relief.
Apart from the pain, if one experiences a ringing or throbbing in the ear, it can be a sign of tinnitus. This is a condition associated with the circulatory system of the body. It generally occurs due to aging or injury to the head or ear.
The tympanic membrane or eardrum is the most important part of the ear. One is able to hear and understand sounds due to it. The eardrum is ruptured by a loud sound or damaged due to insertion of cotton swabs or hair pins. Sometimes scuba driving or airplane ride may cause barotrauma, that leads to rupturing of the eardrum. Following this, one experiences hearing loss, fluid discharge from ear, ear pressure, facial pressure, as well as intense pain in the inner ear .
Formation of a skin cyst in the middle ear that causes pressure on the eardrum is called cholesteatoma. The skin cyst begins to erode into the ear bone causing ear infection. This infection may travel to the brain, leading to an abscess or meningitis, deafness, and even facial paralysis. Therefore, it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible to prevent these serious conditions.
The infection of the mastoid process in the ear causes mastoidoitis. This condition occurs when otitis media is not treated. This condition causes shooting pain in the ear and head. The mastoid region becomes tender and swells. Antibiotics are used to treat this infection.
Ear Pain while Chewing
An inflammation in the jawbone causes pressure while chewing. This pressure affects the surrounding tissues, leading to ear pain while swallowing or chewing. Other reason may be infection of the ear canal that makes the entire region feel tender. Chewing exerts pressure leading to sharp and intense pain in the ear.
When the pain arises from a different part of the facial anatomy, it is called referred pain. This refers to migraines, inflamed sinuses, thermal laryngitis, sore throat and ear pain, peritonsillar abscess (Quincy), mumps, blocked Eustachian tube, etc. Many times, dental problems like a tooth ache, dental carries, dry socket, etc. may lead to discomfort in ear. Infections of the esophagus, thyroid gland or upper trachea also rank as possible causes.
Consult your doctor immediately in case you experience this symptom. Never take chronic or acute ear pain lightly. Any leniency in this matter may lead to hearing loss.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.