Tuesday, 29 March 2016


Earaches are a common experience in children, but they also do occur in adults too. An earache can be described as a sharp, dull, or burning pain in one or both ears. This pain may last for a short time or persist as an ongoing pain.
Earaches can be very painful and getting quick, adequate relief from earaches lies in understanding the different causes of earache and how they affect the ear in different ways (e.g pain from the tooth might be felt in the ear as an earache).

What Causes Earaches?

Earaches can be caused by infections, irritation or trauma to the ear. Earaches may also be referred pain caused by diseased condition of surrounding tissues and structures close to the ear.

Common causes of earaches include;
  • Ear Infections. Infections of the ear are frequently seen at the external part of the ear and the middle ear. A classical example of earache caused by ear infection is seen in the ear disease condition called "Otitis media". Otitis media is an inflammation of the middle ear caused by a middle ear infection (It could be of a bacterial or viral origin).
  • Fluid Build Up inside the eardrum. This condition is also referred to as ''Otitis media with effusion'' (OME) and it is termed "Glue Ear". This fluid build up may or may not be caused by an infection in the ear. This condition is seen more in young children.
  • Changes in ear pressure associated with altitude changes such as when flying on an aeroplane, when diving or during mountain climbing. 
  • Earwax. Build up of earwax in the ear can cause earwax to become impacted and hard. This impacted earwax can get stuck in the ear, press on surrounding tissues of the inner ear and cause pain.
  • Blockage from Foreign Objects in the ear can also cause earache. Foreign Objects get into the ear when they are inserted intentionally or accidentally into the ear canal.
  • Throat infections can also cause earaches as the ear, nose and throat (ENT) are linked. Tonsilitis (an infection of the tonsils at the throat) is an example of such throat infections that do cause earaches.
  • Perforated eardrums occur when there is a tear in the eardrum. A common symptom of perforated eardrums is earache.
  • Jaw pain (also known as temporomandibular joint pain) also causes earaches. This is usually caused by a problem with the temporomandibular joint (this is where the jaw bone meets the skull) of the jawbone. 
  • Side effects of certain drugs do also cause earaches e.g Orlistat
  • Toothache and dental abscesses do cause referred earaches. 

How To Get Relief From Earaches

Source: Web
Providing lasting relief for an episode of earache is centered upon addressing the underlying cause of the earache itself. Therapeutic options include the following:
  1. Earaches caused by Ear infections can be brought under control by addressing the underlying ear infection. Application of appropriate antibiotics as either ear drops or oral dosage forms should resolve a non complicated ear infection. Simple pain relievers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can be administered to ameliorate the pain associated with ear infections. In cases of severe inflammation, put a cold pack or a cold wet towel around the outer ear to relieve pain. Chewing gum also reduces the pain and pressure experienced in earaches caused by ear infections.
  2. Earache caused by Fluid Build up (Glue Ear) in the ear usually resolves as the fluid dries out and fluid pressure drops or immediately the fluid is surgically drained. Most cases of Fluid build up in the ear in adults and children do resolve without treatment within three to six months. Where they do not resolve, appropriate antibiotic therapy and decongestants might prove useful. Unresolved case of Fluid build up would need further medical evaluation and probable consideration for minor surgery and drainage.
  3. To relieve the pain and discomforts of earaches caused by Changes to ear pressure associated with altitude changes, you can do anyone of the following; Chew gum, yawn, inhale and exhale while keeping the nostrils shut and the mouth closed. When flying, it will help to remember not to sleep when the plane is landing.
  4. When Ear wax build up and get impacted, they can cause earaches. Do not poke hardened earwax with objects as you would only push them further into the ear. Soften the ear wax with wax softening drops. Baby oil, mineral oils, glycerin and hydrogen peroxide are good options for softening ear wax. Apply a few drops to the affected ear using a dropper and tilt the head to the side to allow the softeners settle.  Allow softeners to drain after about 5 minutes. Do this twice daily. within a day or two, ear wax should be soft enough to drain out. The ear may also be flushed with warm water (at body temperature) using a bulb type syringe to help ease out the hardened ear wax.
  5. Remove all Foreign objects in the ear when the presence of foreign objects is confirmed. If it cannot be removed at home using firstaid methods, seek prompt medical attention.
  6. Perforated eardrums is often times caused by an ear infection. Perforated eardrums can also occur when one pokes the eardrum with objects such as cotton swabs or any other object used in cleaning the ear. A good number of perforated eardrum cases do heal up without much need for medical intervention. In some cases, antibiotic therapy in oral form or as ear drops may be needed to treat an underlying infection or prevent occurrence of infections.  You'll need to keep the ear drum dry while it heals to avoid having water get into the ear while having your bath or swimming. Avoid blowing your nose vigorously while the perforated eardrum heals and protect the ear from cold air. You can ease the pain from perforated eardrums by applying hot compress to the external ear and using simple pain relievers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.
  7. Jaw pain which in itself do cause earaches is usually caused by temporomandibular joint disorders. To relieve symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders, simple lifestyle changes can produce good results. These include; eating soft foods, reduce associated swelling of the area around the jaw and neck using ice packs, reduce stress, avoid chewing touch foods and bubble gum, do frequent jaw movement exercise. This should provide relief for the jaw pain which in turn should alleviate the earache associated with it. Pain relievers like paracetamol and ibuprofen is useful in relieving episodes of acute pain when it arises.   
  8. The main problem in earaches arising from Toothache and dental abscesses is in the tooth itself and not the ear. The earache in this instance is simply referred pain from the affected tooth. Visit your dentist to get prompt relief.
  9. Earaches caused as a side effect of drug therapy usually resolves when the offending drug is discontinued.
Severe, unrelenting cases of earache will need thorough medical investigation and proper follow-up assessment.

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