The structure of the ear consists of three different sections, namely the inner ear, middle ear, and outer ear. Any major problem like infection or injury often gives rise to piercing ear pain. Sometimes, the cause does not lie inside the ears, but somewhere outside. This is often called a referred earache. This happens when the painful sensation of any other part of the body get transmitted through the same nerve that gives sensation to the ear. As a result, the brain fails to perceive the exact source of pain and presumes it to be an earache.
This condition can occur to both adults as well as children. There are numerous causes which could be responsible. Some of the key causes are discussed below:
Infection can occur in all the three sections of the ear. It is mostly triggered by fluid build up that takes place inside the Eustachian tube that connects the middle part of the ear with the nasal passage. Bacteria, fungi, or virus grow in this trapped moisture and this results in an ear infection. Here the sharp pain in the ear is often accompanied by fluid discharge.
When the delicate eardrum that lies in between the outer ear and middle ear gets injured, then it can lead to shooting pain in ear. An automobile accident or bad fall on the side of the head can cause this kind of injury. Insertion of sharp objects into the ear canal can cause perforation in the eardrum in small children. Sudden change in ear pressure inside and outside the eardrum can also cause this kind of damage. This mostly happens due to altitude change during air travel or scuba diving.
Temporomandibular Joint (or TMJ) Disorder
The exact location of the temporomandibular joint is the side of the head close to the frontal part of the ear. When this joint gets degenerated or dislocated, or suffers an injury, it gives rise to stabbing pain in ear and jaw when chewing. Here the pain of the jaw disorder gets referred to the ear and is experienced as an earache.
Blockage in the Ear Canal
The ear canal may badly get blocked by excessive accumulation of earwax. This gives rise to a painful condition when the earwax is pushed deeper into the canal by external objects like a cotton swab or ear plug, etc., and causes severe blockage. Here the pain is accompanied by other annoying symptoms like tinnitus, itchiness, and may even lead to hearing loss. It may also get blocked if some foreign objects like an insect, marble, beads, etc., enter the ear canal.
If the ear canal gets irritated for some reason, then it causes pain in the ear. When you insert a cotton swab or paper towel to clean up the earwax, the inside skin may get irritated. Similarly, upper respiratory infection may cause irritation and result in piercing pain in ear and throat. As a result, you feel ear pain when swallowing. Sometimes, toothaches may extend to the ears and may pain while chewing.
When you are suffering from a stabbing pain in the ears, then the underlying cause is likely to be serious. Therefore, instead of trying any home treatment you should visit an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) specialist or otolaryngologist. They ascertain the cause and carry out the treatment accordingly. Any kind of infection is treated with the help of antibiotics. If they find a swelling inside the ears, then steroid ear drops are given. Pain relieving medicines are also administered.
When there is an excessive earwax build up, then various techniques are used for its removal. Irrigation method is quite popular among them where sterile solutions are poured into the ear canal through syringe to eliminate earwax. There are different tools that are also used for this purpose. A hole in the eardrum is fixed with the help of special chemicals. If it is badly damaged, then it has to be repaired with the help of surgery.
A stabbing pain in ear is one such ear problem that you cannot afford to ignore. Any negligence on your part can lead to loss of hearing ability. You can prevent its recurrence by taking proper care of your ears. Always take the help of a professional to remove excessive earwax. Never put any sharp object into the ears as it can cause damage to the eardrum.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.