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Inside ear sore: Burning, Scratchy Throat and More

The Inside of My Ear Hurts, Why?

Take a quiz to find out what’s causing your pain.

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Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction disorder

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction disorder refers to long-term pain and dysfunction in the TMJ, the joint that connects the upper and lower jawbones.

The TMJ is a complex joint with complicated movements and is subject to strain and injury. Symptoms may come and go for no apparent reason. Misalignment of the teeth and jaw, and tooth grinding, are no longer believed to be a cause. Women seem to be more susceptible than men.

TMJ disorder has three types:

  • Pain or discomfort in the muscles controlling the TMJ.
  • Dislocation or injury to the jawbone.
  • Arthritis of the TMJ.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and imaging. The goal is to rule out other causes such as sinus infection or facial nerve damage.

Due to the difficulty of diagnosing TMJ disorder, treatment begins with conservative methods that do not permanently change the jaw or teeth. Ice packs, soft foods, gentle stretching of the jaw muscles, and reducing stress are all encouraged. Short-term pain medications may be used. Splints, Botox, implants, and surgery are not recommended.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: dizziness, pain, restricted movement, and clicking sounds from jaw, history of headaches, jaw pain, pain in the back of the neck

Symptoms that always occur with temporomandibular joint (tmj) dysfunction disorder: pain, restricted movement, and clicking sounds from jaw

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa)

Swimmer’s ear, or otitis externa, is an infection of the canal which runs from the eardrum to the opening of the ear.

It is caused by anything that introduces bacteria, fungus, or a virus into the canal. Water that stays inside the ear after swimming is a common cause, as are cotton swabs used for cleaning or earpieces that create irritation.

Most susceptible are children, because they have narrower ear canals that do not drain well.

Early symptoms include redness, itching, and discomfort inside the ear canal, sometimes with drainage of clear fluid.

Even mild symptoms should be treated because they can quickly get worse. The infection can spread and intensify, becoming very painful with increased drainage, swelling, fever, and loss of hearing.

Diagnosis is made through patient history and physical examination of the ear canal. Lab tests may be done on a sample of the discharge from the ear.

Treatment includes having a medical provider clean the ear canal of debris and discharge, and a prescription for antibiotic and/or steroid eardrops.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fever, ear canal pain, ear fullness/pressure, jaw pain, ear pain that gets worse when moving

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Middle ear infection

Middle ear infection, also called acute otitis media, is a bacterial or viral infection of the air-filled space behind the eardrum. An ear infection is usually secondary to a cold, allergy, or influenza.

Young children are most susceptible due to weaker immune systems and to the small size and shape of the Eustachian tubes in the ears. Children in group care settings are more exposed to colds and flu and therefore more prone to ear infections.

Symptoms include ear pain due to inflammation; drainage of fluid from the ear; and sometimes hearing difficulty. Children may cry, run a fever, and pull at the affected ear.

If symptoms last more than a day, a medical provider should be seen. Long-lasting or repeated ear infections can lead to hearing damage and to speech and learning problems.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination.

Middle ear infections often clear up on their own and antibiotics may only be needed for infants and severe cases. Warm compresses and over-the-counter pain relievers can be used. Do not give aspirin to children.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, sore throat, new headache, fever, ear canal pain

Symptoms that always occur with middle ear infection: ear canal pain

Symptoms that never occur with middle ear infection: vertigo (extreme dizziness), face weakness, facial numbness

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Glue ear (otitis media with effusion)

Glue ear is caused by fluid built up in the middle ear (under the eardrum). It happens more frequently in kids than adults because of having frequent colds and less developed tubes in the ear. In adults, it’s caused by acute or chronic sinusitis in 66 percent of cases. It may also be caused by cigarette smoke, allergies, reflux, genetics, or bacteria, all of which stimulate the production of the fluid.

90 percent of cases resolve without treatment in 6 months. If you do go to the doctor, he/she would take a look in the ear to confirm the diagnosis. Adults can request vasoconstrictor nose sprays (Neo-Synephrine or Afrin), but that can’t be used long term. Flonase can also be prescribed. Follow up with a doctor if things don’t get better in 1 week!

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: ear fullness/pressure, constant hearing loss, hearing loss in one ear, trouble hearing that is better in noisy environments, ear canal pain

Symptoms that always occur with glue ear (otitis media with effusion): ear fullness/pressure, hearing loss in one ear, constant hearing loss

Symptoms that never occur with glue ear (otitis media with effusion): ear canal pain, fever

Urgency: Wait and watch

Earwax blockage

Ear wax production is a normal process, as the body makes wax to protect the ear from infection. Sometimes ear wax can build up and cover the eardrum, which is a thin layer of skin that stretches across the end of the ear canal and picks up sound from outside. Ear wax buildup has nothing to do with poor hygiene, and it is not possible to prevent a build-up by washing.

You should go to a retail clinic to be treated. You should NOT try removing the wax with cotton swabs, because you run the risk of pushing the ear wax further into the ear canal, and potentially damaging the ear canal or eardrum. A variety of ear drops exist that can be bought at the pharmacy, such as Debrox, Murine, and Cerumenex. You may also use other remedies such as mineral oil, baby oil, or glycerin ear drops instead of brand-name drops.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: dizziness, dry cough, ear canal pain, ear fullness/pressure, ringing in the ears

Symptoms that never occur with earwax blockage: swollen ear, fever

Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit

Cholesteatoma (a non-cancerous growth in the ear)

Cholesteatoma is a type of skin growth located in the ear, behind the eardrum. While it can be present from birth, it is usually caused by an ear infection. Symptoms include dizziness, hearing loss and pressure in the affected ear, and discharge from the affected ear.

You should consider visiting a medical professional in the next week or two to discuss your symptoms. Cholesteatoma can be evaluated with a review of your symptoms and an ear exam. Imaging such as a CT scan may be performed to rule out other conditions. Once diagnosed, it can be treated with ear cleaning, antibiotics, and eardrops. Surgery to remove the growth may be needed in some cases.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: ear fullness/pressure, ringing in the ears, pain in one ear canal, vertigo (extreme dizziness), hearing loss in one ear

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Burst ear drum

The ear drum is a thin membrane that vibrates as sound hits it, transmitting that vibration into signals that the brain understands! When it bursts, your hearing is affected. It typically happens after some force to the ear drum, such as a blow to the ear, an exploding firecracker, a fall onto water, or even a sharp object in the ear.

You should go to an urgent care center immediately. There, a doctor can confirm the diagnosis by looking in the ear. Further, he/she can clean out any debris and put in a protective cotton plug. Treatment involves keeping the ear dry to heal along with antibiotic ear drops (ofloxacin 5mL, 2-5 drops) if the ear is contaminated with dirty water or objects. You will then be referred to an otolaryngologist who will follow your recovery.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: ear canal pain, constant ear pain, ringing in the ears, vertigo (extreme dizziness), hearing loss

Symptoms that always occur with burst ear drum: ear canal pain, recent ear injury, constant ear pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Ear Ache vs. Ear Infection: What’s the Difference?

Ear pain can range from a minor nuisance to a major source of agony. Ear pain is a common problem, especially in children, and can have a number of causes – some of which have nothing to do with the ear.

But how to know whether it’s an ear ache or an ear infection? And when is it serious enough to seek medical help? We talked with UH family medicine physician Meredith Hale, DO, to find out.

Ear Infections

Ear infections are the most common cause of ear pain. It’s especially common in children and is the most common reason parents bring their child to a doctor. In fact, five out of six children will have at least one ear infection by their third birthday.

An ear infection happens when fluid in the interior space behind the eardrum becomes infected, usually with bacteria. The tube leading into the body becomes blocked, and fluid builds up behind the eardrum. The increased pressure pushes the eardrum outward, causing pain and fever.

An ear infection often occurs after a sore throat, cold or other upper respiratory infection, Dr. Hale says. Symptoms include hearing loss, fever and feeling unwell.

Most ear infections happen to children before they’ve learned how to talk. Here are a few things parents should look for if they suspect their young child has an ear infection:

  • Tugging or pulling at the ear
  • Fussiness and crying
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fluid draining from the ear
  • Clumsiness or balance problems

Ear Ache

Ear aches are not always caused by an ear infection. Other conditions also can cause ear ache or ear pain, especially in adults.

Ear ache is often described as a feeling of pressure in the ear.

“It can begin suddenly or gradually, and it can be quite severe,” Dr. Hale says.

Aside from infection of the inner ear, other causes of ear pain include:

  • Injury
  • Swimmer’s ear – inflammation and infection in the channel that leads from the eardrum to the outside.
  • Cellulitis — infection of the external ear and ear lobe
  • Pain caused by irritation of the nerves in the ear
  • Pain from a sore throat or a problem with the jaw joints
  • Referred pain from infections or inflammation elsewhere in the body such as a toothache
  • Allergic reactions from soap, shampoo, earrings or other allergens
  • Water trapped in the ear
  • Changes in altitude

Many people wonder if ear wax buildup causes ear pain. Normally, your ear canal does not need to be cleaned. But sometimes ear wax does build up, become impacted and cause symptoms, usually a sensation of fullness or muffled sound as if you are wearing ear plugs.

“When too much wax blocks the ear, you may feel pressure, but this usually doesn’t cause pain,” Dr. Hale says.

When To See a Doctor

Ear infections don’t always need to be treated with antibiotics. “Sometimes, we observe and initiate antibiotic therapy if signs and symptoms worsen or fail to improve after 48 to 72 hours,” Dr. Hale says.

If your child has repeated ear infections or trouble hearing, your doctor may suggest meeting with an ear, nose and throat specialist to discuss placing small tubes in your child’s ear to help maintain a healthy environment.

If you experience intense pain, a high fever or a hearing loss, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately, Dr. Hale says.

Related Links

At University Hospitals, we believe having a primary care provider is essential to your health and well-being. Our primary care physicians and nurses provide comprehensive, compassionate and continuous primary care for patients of all ages. We are committed to building a healthy relationship with you and your family to detect and minimize long-term health issues, or just help you get over that illness that’s going around. Need a primary care provider? Find one here.

Otitis externa – causes, symptoms, treatment

What is otitis externa?

This is an inflammation of the tissues of the external auditory canal, eardrum and auricle. Otitis externa is widespread. It is considered acute if it lasts less than 4 weeks, chronic if it lasts longer and/or recurs more than 4 times a year.

IMPORTANT! Information from the article cannot be used for self-diagnosis and self-treatment! Only a doctor can prescribe the necessary examinations, establish a diagnosis and draw up a treatment plan for a consultation!

Symptoms of otitis externa

There are three degrees of severity of otitis externa.

  • Mild otitis externa: itching in the ear canal, redness inside the ear, unpleasant sensations in the ear, which are aggravated by pressure on the auricle or tragus (a small protrusion in the center of the auricle). A little clear, odorless liquid may come out of the ear.
  • Moderate otitis externa: itching becomes worse, the ear hurts, there is obvious redness inside, the discharge increases, pus may appear. The auditory canal is felt as if filled as a result of edema and retention of the discharge.
  • Diffuse (diffuse) otitis externa: severe pain in the ear, radiating to the neck, temple, cheek; the auditory canal is completely blocked; the auricle becomes red and swollen, as are the lymph nodes in the neck. The temperature is elevated, sometimes significantly.

When to go to the doctor?

See a doctor even if you have mild otitis externa. If you have severe pain and a fever, you should call an ambulance or go to the hospital immediately.

Causes of otitis externa

  • water that enters the ear when swimming is a breeding ground for bacteria;
  • picking the ears with fingers, cleaning them with cotton swabs. As a result, a person damages the thin surface of the skin of the ear canal, which makes it vulnerable to infections;
  • eczema, seborrhea, neurodermatitis, local skin irritation (from insect bites, etc.), allergy to earrings or hair products – may cause non-infectious external otitis media.

Otitis externa risk

  • The habit of cleaning the ears with cotton swabs, sticks, fingers.
  • Frequent swimming, especially in natural waters where the water is not purified.
  • Narrow ear canal, eg in children.
  • Wearing headphones, hearing aids.

Possible complications of otitis externa

As a rule, otitis externa does not cause complications and is easily treated. However, if complications do occur, they can be as follows:

  • temporary hearing loss in the affected ear. Passes after recovery from otitis media;
  • chronic otitis externa. It usually occurs when there are difficulties with the treatment of otitis externa, for example, with fungal and mixed bacterial-fungal forms;
  • spread of infection to deep tissues – cellulitis of the neck, lymphadenitis, osteomyelitis. Similar complications (malignant otitis media) can occur in patients with immunodeficiency conditions, diabetes, and those receiving chemotherapy. Such complications can be life-threatening.

How to prevent otitis externa?

  • Gently dab your ear after bathing, but don’t rub anything on your ear canal.
  • If water gets in your ear, you can shake it out by jumping on one leg and tilting your head to the same side. You can also dry the water in your ear with a hair dryer, setting it to the lowest setting and holding it about 30-40 cm from your ear.
  • If you know that your eardrum has been damaged or punctured, you can use ear drops that will prevent bacteria from growing in your ear after water gets in.
  • Do not swim in dirty waters.
  • Do not get into the ear canal with a finger, a stick, a cotton swab or a swab – in a word, nothing.
  • Protect your ears when using hairspray if you know it can irritate the skin inside the ear canal;
  • If you have had ear surgery or ear infections, visit an ENT before swimming.

Diagnosis of otitis externa

Usually it is not difficult. Otitis externa is easily identified by its symptoms and the appearance of the ear and ear canal. The doctor may examine your ear with an otoscope. If he wants to make sure that the eardrum is not damaged, he can use a curette to clean the ear and take a deeper look.

If the otitis media is diffuse, the doctor may need additional diagnostics of the condition of the middle ear, determining the nature of the otitis media (bacterial or otherwise), etc.

Treatment of otitis externa

the passage to clear itself, as it happens normally.

  • Cleaning and irrigation of the ear canal. As a rule, the doctor cleans it with a curette to free it from particles of skin, stuck earwax and dried discharge (serous or purulent). This is necessary so that the ear drops can spill to the entire depth of the ear canal.
  • Ear drops prescribed by an ENT or general practitioner (GP). Usually these are drops with antibiotics and / or corticosteroids. For severe pain, analgesics may be used.
  • In case of severe swelling of the external auditory canal, the doctor may first replace the drops with turunda soaked in medicine. When the edema subsides, it is easy to remove the turunda from the ear, and you can continue to be treated with drops.
  • When applying cold drops, hold them in the palm of your hand for a while to reduce discomfort. After the drops are in your ear, lie down for a few minutes on your healthy side so that the drops are better absorbed. You can ask someone to administer the drops for you – it’s more convenient.
  • If the infection is widespread, the doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics in addition to drops.

How to help the treatment?

  • Don’t wear headphones while your ear hurts.
  • Do not swim or dive. Avoid getting liquid in your ears.
  • Avoid flying until you are cured.

You can sign up for a consultation by phone: + 7 812 327 03 01.

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What to do if your ear hurts

Otitis is the most common cause of ear pain

Inflammation can occur in the outer, middle or inner ear. The reason is a viral or bacterial infection, but reduced immunity, lack of vitamins and hypothermia help her in the development of inflammation.

See also: Fruits or vitamins from pharmacies? What to choose and what to replace

What is otitis media

  • Otitis externa is an inflammation of the tissues of the external auditory canal, tympanic membrane or auricle. Such a problem can be identified by eye – redness and swelling are noted. In addition, there are “lumbago” or constant discomfort in the ear.
  • Otitis media affects deeper structures. There is a throbbing pain throbbing, the temperature rises and hearing may even temporarily decrease.
  • Otitis media rarely occurs on its own, it is more often a complication of advanced diseases. There is dizziness, impaired coordination, and subsequently, serious complications on the brain are possible.

Injuries of the eardrum

The eardrum can be injured even at home if cotton swabs are not used carefully. However, more often it occurs when a blow to the ear, chemicals enter the ear canal, or as a result of barotrauma (for example, in divers when ascending too quickly).

Tympanic membrane injury is characterized by severe, sharp pain that resolves after a while. But not without a trace – it leaves behind a sharp decrease in hearing on the affected side, tinnitus and even bleeding. With mild barotrauma due to pressure drop, the pain may go away on its own.

When something gets into the ear

The pain when a foreign body gets in can be different, depending on whether it is a bead, a piece of cotton or a bug.

Ear pain not caused by the ear

Did you know that most of the hearing organ is located inside the head? No, then let’s take a little digression into the anatomy!

So, the auricle, the ear canal is just the outer ear. Hidden behind the eardrum is the middle ear, which contains three small bones and the Eustachian tube. Through this tube, the middle ear is connected to the nasopharynx. Even deeper is the inner ear, where the mechanical vibrations of sound are converted into electrical impulses.

All structures of the maxillofacial region are a single complex system, and if one of the elements fails, others suffer. That is why if the “ear hurts”, then it does not necessarily hurt.

In such a situation we speak of “secondary remission”. Let’s look at its causes and manifestations.


Of course, making diagnoses and prescribing treatment is the doctor’s task. But it is necessary to suspect diseases and make an appointment with an ENT specialist if you have:

Secondary otalgia


Trigeminal neuralgia

Hypothermia, nerve entrapment, viral damage, etc.

Very severe, “electric” pain in the face.

Pathology of the temporomandibular joint


As a rule, it is accompanied by its “clicking”, pain when moving the jaw.

Sore throat (pharyngitis, tonsillitis)



Dental disease

Any running processes, even caries

Accompanied by pain when chewing

Diseases of the parotid salivary gland area of ​​the lower jaw or behind the ear

Who to run to if your ear hurts

Thus, if your ear hurts, first of all, make an appointment with an otolaryngologist, since it is the doctor who will be able to determine the true cause. On the way to the clinic, remember what preceded this pain:

  • Perhaps you dived deep and suddenly swam out of the water?
  • Or were you in the forest, lying on the grass?
  • Maybe they let caries or an old jaw injury run by chance?

This information will help the ENT in a shorter time to establish the correct diagnosis and prescribe the necessary studies and treatment.

How to prevent ear problems

Prevention is based on high-quality hygiene, not only of the ear, but also of the mouth, nose and throat.

To clean the ears, use only products and tools intended for this purpose:

  • Cotton swabs: with and without restraints
  • Alternative to cotton swabs shell and the very initial parts of the ear canal.

    What to do if a sulfur plug has formed

    If a sulfur plug occurs, you can carefully try special phyto-candles to soften it.

    If there is no relief, go to the doctor – they use special drops to dissolve the cerumen and then wash the ear cavity with antiseptic solutions.

    To soften the cork before the procedure, you may need:

    And what about compresses

    We do not recommend doing compresses at home, since it is initially necessary to determine the cause of the disease. If the doctor prescribes a compress, he will name the necessary drug, the method of application (put turundas in the ears or apply on the outer ear), and the duration of the procedure. Cotton wool or gauze can be purchased in advance:

    When you need ear drops

    Ear drops can be used for different purposes – antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory or analgesic. Drops with a combined action are common. Choose a drug from the list prescribed by your doctor. If it is not in the selection, we suggest that you familiarize yourself with the assortment on the website – for sure they will be in stock.

    How to deal with a fever

    If the body temperature rises above 38 degrees, adults are advised to remove the fever. NSAIDs known to all will come to the rescue:

    And when you need earplugs

    Earplugs are indispensable in many situations. And it’s not just about partner snoring (who should also contact an ENT doctor). In nature, earplugs will protect you from intruders in the ear canals, swimmers from water ingress and the risk of infection, swimmers in untested places from dirty water and everything in it.