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Random pain in ear: Sharp Pain in Ear | 7 Causes of Sharp Pain in Ear, Prevention, Treatments & More

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Ear pain in most cases comes from either the outer ear or middle ear.

The outer ear is the most exterior part of the ear and consists of both the pinna and the ear canal. The various causes and treatments of outer ear pain can include:

  • SWIMMER’S EAR (External Otitis): Is very painful and occurs when the ear canal becomes wet. Bacteria and fungus love the warm, wet, and dark environment, and can multiply causing infection and swelling. Treatment can involve antibiotic ear drops, antibiotic medications and keeping the ear dry.
  • EAR CANAL TRAUMA: Can occur from scratching the skin lining the ear canal as this skin is extremely thin and sensitive. Most treatment involved simple observation and at times antibiotic ear drops may have to be prescribed.


  • NEURALGIA: Is a term used to describe inflammation of the nerves around the ear causing a pain that feels like a jabbing or stabbing inside the ear. One of the most common causes of ear neuralgia is TMJ.
  • TMJ: Refers to inflammation involving the “jaw joint”. Because this joint lies just below the ear canal, pain from this joint can be referred to the ear via nerves that are “shared” by both areas.
  • TUMORS: Are very uncommon cases of pain of the outer ear.
  • REFERRED PAIN: Due to shared nerve supply, rarely a throat condition, but can cause ear pain.

The middle ear consists of the eardrum and the area directly behind the eardrum known as the middle ear space. This space also contains 3 bones which move in response to the vibration of the ear drum. The various causes and treatments of middle ear pain include:

  • OTITIS MEDIA: Refers to infections of the middle ear. This can often occur after an upper respiratory tract infection that reaches the middle ear via the Eustachian tube. This is most commonly treated with oral antibiotics.
  • CHOLESTEATOMA: Is a benign skin tumor that can grow within the middle ear space and cause infection, drainage, and ear pain. This needs to be treated surgically.
  • EUSTACHIAN TUBE DYSFUNCTION (ETD): The Eustachian tube connects the middle ear cavity with the throat. It helps aerate and drain the middle ear space. When this tube does not function, often due to colds or sinus infections, fluid and/or pressure can build up in the middle ear space and cause pain. People may also experience some hearing loss. Treatment of ETD includes oral and nasal decongestants and the valsalva maneuver (pinching the nostrils and blowing hard against them). In severe cases, draining the fluid through the eardrum or placing a tube within the eardrum may be necessary

Sharp Pain In The Ear: Causes And Symptoms

Feeling a sharp pain in the ear is quite a common occurrence. However, while painful ears may not necessarily spell trouble, it does not mean that you should ignore it when it happens. Pain in the ear is known as otalgia by doctors. There are many different possible causes and symptoms of pain in the ear, such as TMJ disorder. Read on to find out more about the causes and symptoms of sharp pain in the ear!

Why Does Pain Occur in the Ears?

Pain in the ears may be a result of one or a few different factors. Our ears are made up of a tube known as the eustachian tube. This tube is in charge of regulating pressure within the ear. However, if the tube gets blocked, it may result in an imbalance in pressure. External pressure changes can result in symptoms like dizziness, hearing loss, pressure within the ear, or dull or sharp pain within the ear.

Sinus Infections Can Result in Ear Pain

Sometimes, sinus infections can result in sharp ear pain. This happens when the ear gets inflamed and infected, which is the most common type of sinus infection. The mastoid bone which is located behind the ear can also get infected, leading to ear pain. One may also experience ear pain when the paranasal sinuses get inflamed. The paranasal sinus is in charge of nasal mucus production.


Otitis refers to the infection of the outer or the inner ear and is a very common cause of ear pain. When the inner ear gets affected, the eustachian tube, which connects the upper throat and the back of the nasal cavity, may feel tender and painful.

On the other hand, when the outer ear gets infected, the ear canal is affected which can lead to irritation and pain in the ear.

Foreign Objects Lodged in the Ear

When a foreign object gets lodged in the ear canal, it may also result in ear pain. For instance, sometimes children may insert foreign objects into their ears as they are curious. This may lead to dull or sharp pain within the ears, infections, drainage from the ears as well as hearing loss. If this happens, it is important to visit a healthcare provider who is able to use proper procedures and tools to remove the object.

Temporomandibular Disorder

Temporomandibular disorder is also known as TMD. This joint is responsible for connecting the jawbone to the skull. When someone has a temporomandibular disorder, they may experience dull or sharp pains which may radiate in the temples and the ears. Other symptoms of temporomandibular disorder include difficulty in opening the mouth fully, grinding, popping, and clicking noises when opening and closing the jaw, as well as the jaw locking when opening the mouth.

Patients are sometimes diagnosed and treated many times for an ear infection, when it is actually a TMD disorder. An associated hearing loss or ear drainage is expected if it was really an ear infection. Many patients struggle with having ear pain for years before realizing that the root cause is linked to TMD. If you experience ear pain, you might want to find out if TMD is actually the main issue.
If you are feeling a sharp pain in the ear, it is important to seek the help of a medical professional. Head Pain Institute is a reliable and established healthcare provider that can help with the ear pain that you are experiencing, if it is not due to an infection. Feel free to schedule an appointment with us to treat your ear pain today!

When babies’ ears hurt

Yulia Selskaya tells,

otorhinolaryngologist, head of the otorhinolaryngology clinic, doctor of the highest category, Ph.D.

If the child has a fever, does not sleep, tosses and turns, cries, and when you try to check the ears, the crying intensifies, the baby may have otitis media.

Features of the structure of the ears in children

In terms of the frequency of diseases in children, otitis media (ear inflammation) is in second place after the common cold. At the age of up to a year, 62% of children suffer from otitis media once, 17% – three or more. Most often, children are prone to this disease in the period from three months to three years.

Why do children get sick so often? There are many reasons. It is during this age period that the child has an incompletely formed immune system, it is difficult for the body to resist infections. The anatomical features of the structure of the middle ear contribute to the disease. In newborns and young children, the ear canal is short, the closer to the eardrum, the narrower. The border of the outer and middle ear is the tympanic membrane. The middle ear is located in the temporal part and consists of several elements. The most important is the auditory tube, which connects the nasopharynx and the inner ear. Unlike adults in babies, it is short, wide and more horizontal. This structure contributes to the penetration of infection from the nasopharynx into the middle ear, where instead of a smooth thin mucous membrane and air, there is loose gelatinous connective tissue with a small number of blood vessels. An ideal environment for the development of microorganisms. Acute otitis media develops when inflammation passes from the mucous membrane of the nasal cavity and nasopharynx to the auditory tube. Ventilation and drainage functions are disturbed, and bloody fluid accumulates in the tympanic cavity.

The reason for the violation of the patency of the auditory tube can be adenoids, which clog its mouth, congenital anomalies, allergic reactions.

Pneumococci, streptococci and acute eating disorders also cause otitis media. With improper feeding of the baby, the ingress of mixture or breast milk from the nasopharynx can cause inflammation.

Depending on the location of the lesion, otitis media can be external, medial, or internal. The most common at this age is acute otitis media, which develops against the background of SARS, tonsillitis, scarlet fever, measles. According to disease statistics, acute otitis media occurs in 70% of cases, external – about 20%, internal – up to 10% of the total number of otitis media. In young children, acute otitis media is even more common, up to 90%.

Breast-fed children are twice as likely to develop acute otitis media as artificial children. The causes of impaired patency of the auditory tube may also be associated with mechanical blockage of its mouth by adenoids, may be associated with congenital anomalies, allergic reactions.

Diagnosis of otitis in a child

The disease begins suddenly, the temperature rises to 39-40C. The baby is restless, cries a lot, sleeps poorly, sucks sluggishly at the breast. During feeding, it breaks away from the breast with a cry and cries. From the age of four months, the child closes the sore ear with a pen or rubs it against the pillow. If the inflammatory process has affected the eardrum, mucus, pus, and ichor are released from the ear. In a severe form of otitis media in infants, vomiting and diarrhea are possible. The kid throws back his head, strains his arms and legs, his neck does not bend.

Moms ask: how to quickly see a doctor with symptoms of otitis media? Do you need a specialist or will a pediatrician prescribe treatment? You need to see a doctor immediately or within a few hours after the first symptoms appear: emergency care should be provided without an appointment. Only an ENT doctor should diagnose the disease, he will also prescribe treatment.

But there are situations when it is necessary to act without delay. Swelling behind the ear, the child lies with his head thrown back, legs bent to the tummy and convulsions, this may indicate dangerous complications – meningitis or meningoencephalitis. “Ambulance” in such cases is called immediately. Complications are treated in a pediatric ENT hospital, if necessary, an incision in the tympanic membrane is made – myringotomy or tympanostomy (simultaneously with the incision of the tympanic membrane, the tympanic cavity is sanitized and ventilation tubes-aerators are installed). The surgeon performs the operation using a microscope under general or local anesthesia. The purpose of the procedure is to ensure the free outflow of pus from the middle ear cavity. After the operation, the child’s condition improves.

Under the supervision of an ENT doctor

An ENT doctor prescribes treatment – antibiotic therapy, painkillers, local procedures and physiotherapy. Recovery usually occurs within 5-10 days. After the baby has recovered, rehabilitation therapy is carried out.

In the treatment of acute otitis in children under two years of age, the doctor will definitely prescribe antibiotics. These can be tablets, syrups, intramuscular injections, in severe cases – intravenous administration of drugs.

Antibiotics are prescribed for children older than two years in a serious condition, when the ear hurts a lot and the temperature is above 38C.

Many parents are skeptical about the use of antibiotics for otitis, fearing that the baby’s immune system is being harmed. There is no reason to worry: modern drugs are well excreted from the body and the negative consequences of their use are minimal. If otitis media is not treated or done without medical supervision, cicatricial processes in the tympanic cavity, hearing loss, chronic purulent otitis media, which require complex surgical treatment, may occur. In extremely severe cases – mastoiditis, meningitis.

First aid for otitis media

Mom can give first aid to the baby. If the temperature is elevated, it is worth giving the child antipyretic and analgesic drugs based on paracetamol. Analgin and aspirin can not be used! For sanitation of the nose, spray and drops with sea water are used. Otitis is often accompanied by rhinitis. You can gently remove mucus from the front of the nose. Vasoconstrictor drops are not prescribed for infants.

If the baby is over a year old, with severe swelling of the nasal mucosa, medicines are prescribed for the common cold.

Compresses, warming and fatty ointments should not be used for otitis media, otherwise the inflammation will increase. For children prone to frequent otitis, parents put cotton wool in their ears, trying to protect them from the disease. This cannot be done – ideal conditions are created in the external auditory canal for the reproduction of microorganisms, including fungi.

When bathing a child, cotton wool with vaseline oil is placed on children who have a perforation of the eardrum, otherwise the water that enters the eardrum can cause inflammation. With a complete membrane, water entering the external auditory canal does not threaten anything; after bathing, simply pat your ears dry with a towel.

Author: Julia Selskaya, otorhinolaryngologist, head of the Otorhinolaryngology Clinic, doctor of the highest category, Ph.D.

How to get rid of water in the ear

After water procedures or swimming, there is often a feeling that there is still something inside the ear canal – you hear worse, there is a feeling of congestion and noise. In the people, such symptoms are called “swimmer’s ear.” Most often, after some time, this condition goes away on its own – water flows out. But what if the discomfort worries you after a day or even a few?

To understand how dangerous it is for liquid to enter the ear canal, you first need to know how the ear works.

Structure of the ear

As can be seen from the diagram, normally the tympanic membrane separates the outer ear from the middle and inner. Therefore, if water enters through the ear canal, it will not be able to get past the eardrum (at least if you are healthy and have not had otitis media in the past). And this, although not very pleasant, is not dangerous, because. while the inner and middle ear are safe.

However, if the fluid has not leaked out of the ear within 12 hours after the water treatment, you should try to remove it yourself. Moisture and heat are the best conditions for the reproduction of bacteria and fungi. You probably don’t want them to settle in your ear, right?

Three easy ways to get rid of water in your ear

If water gets in your ear and won’t come out, try one of these methods to get it out.

1. Tilt your head so that the affected ear is parallel to the ground and hop on one foot.

2. You can also tilt your head towards the affected ear, press the pinna with the palm of your hand, and then tear it off sharply so that the pressure helps to expel the water.

3. Another way is to “blow out” your ears. Inhale, pinch your nose and try to exhale. You will feel pressure in your ears to help remove fluid from your ear canal.

What if that didn’t help?

If after that you do not feel relief, there may be several reasons:

  • Air lock;
  • Sulfur plug swelling;
  • Water in the middle ear.

An airlock is an air bubble that prevents fluid from flowing out of the ear canal. It only creates temporary inconvenience.

But a sulfur plug swollen with water can cause a lot of trouble. It significantly reduces hearing acuity, can create discomfort, pain and a feeling of stuffiness in the ear.

Feelings are not always possible to distinguish between a wax plug and an air plug that has trapped water in the ear. But this is easily done by an ENT called to the house. He will examine the ear canal with an otoscope and immediately tell you what is the cause of the discomfort.

If water gets into your ear and it hurts, call a doctor!

If the problem is in the airlock, the doctor will easily remove the air bubble and the liquid will flow out of the ear canal. If the sulfur plug became the cause of discomfort, the cork softened with water can be washed out of the ear. This will permanently save you from stuffy ears after the bath and hearing problems.

Water in the middle ear

The liquid in the middle ear deserves special attention. In a healthy person, fluid cannot get there directly. However, if you have ever had otitis media, the integrity of the tympanic membrane may be compromised (this is especially likely if otitis media has been repeated several times and was difficult). In this case, fluid may end up in the middle ear. This is also possible if you dive or accidentally inhale water through your nose – because. the nasopharyngeal and middle ear cavities communicate, fluid easily passes from one cavity to another.

Because it is in the middle ear that the main organs of hearing are located, the ingress of liquid there is usually accompanied by characteristic sound effects – shooting.

Shooting sounds are not the most pleasant soundtrack, but sometimes people believe that they need to be endured and wait until everything passes by itself. It is strongly not recommended to do this – the fluid in the middle ear area very quickly causes inflammation – otitis media.

Call the ENT if a shootout breaks out in your ear some time after your swim! The doctor will help prevent the development of the inflammatory process.

What to do if water gets into the ear and it hurts

Let’s summarize. Call your doctor if you experience symptoms such as:

  • Pain in the ears;
  • Ear congestion;
  • Shooting sounds;
  • Hearing problems;
  • Dizziness.

All this may be due to fluid entering the outer or middle ear.