Ear pain is a common problem that affects all age ranges. The initial thought is that ear pain is caused by an ear infection however; it’s not always the case. Approximately 50% of all cases of ear pain are actually caused by problems in other areas of the body. This is called referred pain. For example Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) syndrome, tonsillitis, cervical (neck) disorders, arthritis in the jaw, sinusitis, tooth infections, sore throats and the common cold can all cause referral pain in the ear. However, the other 50% can be due to problems within the ear such as ear infections, ruptured or perforated ear drum, earache, swimmers ear, impacted cerumen (ear wax), pressure changes, objects in the ear or trauma to the ear.
Ear infections can occur in the outer ear canal, inner ear, and middle ear. The ear canal is a small damp, dark space, which is a breeding ground for infections. Therefore it is important to always remove water or sweat from within the ear. Although, earwax is present to protect anything from reaching the eardrum and its internal structures, earwax can be removed and is not impenetrable. A bacterium within the ear normally causes ear infections. Ear infections are more likely to occur in children due to the underdevelopment of the Eustachian tubes, and less likely to be the cause of ear pain in adults. Some symptoms of ear infections include ear pain, earache, fever, irritability, drainage, trouble sleeping and trouble hearing. However, ear pressure and ear itching are two symptoms that can be contributed to other problems as well.
Ear itching is a very common problem that is usually associated with dry ear canals. It is normally caused by an allergy to fungus, which causes the absence of earwax. A fungus grows within the ear canal causing the itching sensation. This is normally chronic and reoccurs often due to the inability for earwax to be reproduced within the ear. Ear pressure can be caused by several possibilities. Normally ear pressure occurs due to a blockage of airflow between the middle ear and the back of the nose. However, it can also be caused by a change in altitude (flying on a plane, climbing a mountain, diving in the ocean), or referred by the sinuses.
Due to the common occurrence of ear pain it is very hard to decipher the cause of the pain without having the ear and surrounding musculature examined by a doctor. However there are numerous home remedies that can be applied to relieve ear pain symptoms before and after seeing a physician. One thing to always remember about the ear no matter whether you have ear pain is to never put anything into the ear. The ear is comprised of several canals, channels and tubes and the eardrum. When you put something into the ear you risk puncturing, perforating or rupturing the eardrum, as well as pushing wax further into the ear canal that can cause blockage, hearing loss and ear pain. Unfortunately, Q-tips have long been marketed to remove the wax from your ears, however its effectiveness is very limited. Avoid using them at all cost.
There are many different products on the market to clean the ear and resolve ear pain, however unfortunately many of these products are made up of chemicals that can have side effects within the body. A natural way to clean the ear is to use garlic oil, natural olive oil or ear candling. Ear candles can be found at a natural food store or pharmacy and should be used as directed. Make sure you have someone helping you with this to avoid burning yourself. Garlic oil can be found at any natural or organic grocery stores. To use this it is important to warm the oil before putting them in your ear. The warmth of the oil will loosen wax, dirt or toxins trapped in the ear canal. Use several drops of oil to fill up the ear. Tilting your head in the opposite direction will allow the oil to stay in the ear as well as a placing a cotton ball just in the ear opening to seal the oil inside. Leave the oil for 5-10 minutes to loosen and break up debris. Then flush the ear with water to clear out the ear canal. This should relieve possible blockage or ear pain. Depending upon how much wax your body produces will determine how often you should use this method of cleaning, but it is recommended at a minimum to clean your ears two times a month.
Seeing your doctor at the first hint of ear pain is not always necessary due to the amount of sources that could cause ear pain. However, if home remedies or treatments don’t reduce your symptoms and your ear pain persists for longer than 3-4 days then you should see your physician, to better diagnose your problem. Additionally if your ear starts to drain it could be a sign of an eardrum rupture, which requires a doctor visit. If you unsure whether its necessary to see your doctor then you are better off going because some ear infections left untreated can cause permanent hearing loss, or life threatening diseases.
Sarah Labdar, “How to Get Ear Pain Relief”, Everyday Health