Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with earache initials 5th? It can be an unpleasant sensation … a pain that can be a continuous dull ache, a pressure sensation or even sharp and severe. Although earache may be due to an ear infection, it can also be caused by a number of things affecting the structures in and around the ear!

Let’s take a look at some of the possible causes of earache:

  • outer ear infection (an infection of skin of the ear canal)
  • middle ear infection (where the infection is located behind the ear drum)
  • glue ear (where fluid builds up behind the eardrum causing temporary hearing loss)
  • throat infections (tonsillitis, a cold, quinsy/tonsillar abscess)
  • sinus infection
  • barotrauma (injury to the ear due to pressure changes/altitude change)
  • ear wax build-up
  • trauma to the ear (scratching the ear canal with an ear bud, or poking an ear bud in too far causing damage to the eardrum)
  • dental abscess, wisdom teeth problems
  • foreign body in the ear (young children often put small objects in the ear canal)
  • jaw conditions (affecting the TM-joint, where the lower jaw connects with the skull near the ear, such as arthritis, teeth grinding, malocclusion)
  • trigeminal neuralgia (one-sided facial pain in association with Shingles)

 When should you see a doctor about your earache?

  • when earache is not improving, or worsens over a few days
  • when severe earache suddenly stops – this could suggest a possible ruptured eardrum
  • if you have a high fever and/or sore throat
  • if there’s discharge from the ear
  • if there is something stuck in the ear canal
  • if there is swelling or tenderness around, or behind the ear
  • if there is weakness of the face muscles, dizziness, loss of balance, ringing in the ear/s, hearing loss, a rash or a headache
Read  Are you afraid of chlamydia?

What could be some of the clues or signs to suggest that your child might have an ear infection?

  • high fever (more than 38 degrees Celsius)
  • if your child pulls on, tugs on, or rubs the ears
  • decreased hearing
  • balance problems
  • restlessness or irritability at night
  • other symptoms of a cold/airway infection (runny/blocked nose, sore throat, cough, loss of appetite)
  • discharge from the ear

What can be done about earache?

The treatment of earache depends on what’s causing it, but can include:

  • rest in a more upright position, rather than lying completely flat
  • over-the-counter painkillers or anti-inflammatory medication (avoid aspirin in children)
  • try a cold pack or cool facecloth on the outer ear for 20 minutes
  • when in a plane, try chewing gum and allow a baby to suck on a bottle
  • try to keep your ears dry, or dry your ears well if they should get wet
  • control any allergies with anti-histamines and a cortisone nasal spray
  • ear-drops can be used to soften ear wax to assist removal (as long as the eardrum is not ruptured)
  • antibiotics may be necessary to treat certain types of infections
  • decongestants and/or a cortisone nasal spray may alleviate pressure and congestion
  • grommets may be necessary in some cases of middle ear infections