Why does my ear hurt?

Why does my ear hurt?

Don't ignore ear pain as an infection in the ear can cause temporary hearing loss and fever, warns Dr Anuj Kumar Goel


Parents know how common earaches are for children, but adults can get frequent ear pain too. You don’t have to have an infection or even anything wrong with your ears for you to have ear pain.

Take care of your ears to prevent infections

Ear pain due to acute otitis media has been more common among children than adults. It affects the middle ear, the air-filled area behind the eardrum. The pain may affect one or both the ears and may be because of multiple factors including a cold, flu, or infection. The infection may cause temporary hearing loss and fever.

Common risk factors

Infection is a common cause of pain in the ear which usually occurs in the outer and middle part of the ear. Infection in the outer ear is commonly caused by water during swimming or by using headphones which can damage the ear drum. While in the case of middle ear, the pain may be caused by infection from the respiratory tract.

Other common causes of ear aches include sinus infection, foreign object in the ear, earwax buildup, and water trapped in the ear. There are other major factors that cause pain in both adults and children. This includes skin infection or cellulitis, chronic skin irritations, sunburn or any other physical injury where blood clots are formed in the ear canal. Poor air quality caused by pollution and smoking also increases the chances of children getting an ear infection.

Signs & symptoms of earache

Those suffering from ear infection experience a sharp and sudden pain in the ear. Other symptoms include fever, accompanied by hearing loss, muffled hearing, ear discharge, restlessness. Toddlers may also be sleepless and irritable after an ear infection. Bloody discharge, pus from the ear are other signs of a severe ear infection.

Treatment options

The treatment for chronic ear infection includes use of antibiotic medicines which may be taken orally or given intravenously or topically through ear drops.

Contact a doctor if a child develops a stiff neck or he/she feels very lethargic or is crying inconsolably.

You can also try several home remedies to relieve the ear pain.

Place a cold or warm washcloth near the affected area.

You can also use pain relieving drugs to relieve the pain.

Use ear drops to relieve the pain.

However, if pain the persists, you must immediately consult a doctor. Your doctor may recommend a surgery to treat chronic ear infection if the basic antibiotic medicines do not have any effect.

Preventive measures for kids

Try not to expose your child to extreme cold and avoid other forms of air pollution.

Along with this, you should keep immunisations of your child up to date. Insist on children keeping their hands clean so as to avoid the spread of germs and also prevent them from catching a flu or cold.

If your baby is 12 months old and is still using a pacifier, then you need to keep it at bay as he or she is at a greater risk of catching infection.

(The author is consultant ENT,
Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad)