Older man with ear pain

Ear pain tends to be quite unpleasant and frustrating, but that doesn’t necessarily make it serious. Pain or pressure in your ear can have many different causes, some of which are much more significant than others. So, how do you determine whether or not your earache is something that requires medical attention?

The Causes of Ear Pain

In children, ear infections are the most common cause of ear pain. Ear infections can occur in adults as well, but they are significantly less likely to cause ear pain. For adults, earaches are usually caused by one of the following:

  • Wax buildup or hardening
  • Fluid trapped inside the ear tubes
  • A major change in air pressure
  • An upper respiratory illness or infection
  • An infection of the sinus or eye
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
  • Loud noises
  • A head or jaw injury
  • Swimmer’s ear

When Should You See a Doctor About Ear Pain?

Many people struggle to decide whether or not it’s worth seeing a doctor for their ear pain. If you experience any of the following symptoms along with your ear discomfort, you’d be wise to get checked out as soon as you can.

  • Ear pain that doesn’t disappear within one or two days
  • Fever or other signs of an infection
  • Discharge coming from the ear
  • Ear pain when you blow your nose
  • Minor hearing loss
  • Ringing in ears
  • Pain that worsens when you wiggle your ear lobe

If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, you could potentially have an infection or blockage. You may need to take a course of antibiotics or have your ears cleaned out by an ENT specialist.

When Should You Seek Emergency Care for Ear Pain?

Although it’s rare for ear pain to be serious enough to warrant a trip to the ER, it can happen. You should seek emergency care immediately if you notice any of these symptoms with your ear pain:

  • High fever
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Bleeding from the ear
  • Dizziness
  • Significant hearing loss
  • Severe pain

Additionally, you should get emergency treatment if you experience ear pain shortly after suffering an injury to the head or ear. These symptoms could indicate a ruptured eardrum, a brain injury, or another serious condition.

Treating Ear Pain

If you aren’t experiencing any of the more serious symptoms, your ear pain will likely fade on its own within a day or two. However, if you want to alleviate the discomfort in the meantime, you can try the following:

  • Chewing gum
  • Sleeping in an upright position
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medication or ear drops
  • Applying a cold or warm compress to and around your ear
  • Exercising/stretching your neck

What is the Takeaway?

Most of the time, mild or moderate ear pain isn’t something to be worried about. However, when that pain lasts for several days, becomes worse, or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it’s always a good idea to seek medical treatment. An experienced ENT doctor will be extremely helpful when it comes to ear pain. If you’re in the greater Miami area, you won’t find a better option than the skilled ENT specialists at South Florida ENT Associates.

Back to Blog

With 37 convenient locations across the South Florida area, we’re never far away.

Find your ENT Request Appointment
Contact us media
Accessibility: If you are vision-impaired or have some other impairment covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act or a similar law, and you wish to discuss potential accommodations related to using this website, please contact our Accessibility Manager at (305) 558-3724.