Ear pain, also known as earache, is pain in the ear. Primary ear pain is pain that originates from the ear. Secondary ear pain is a type of referred pain, meaning that the source of the pain differs from the location where the pain is felt.
Most causes of ear pain are non-life threatening. Primary ear pain is more common than secondary ear pain, and it is often due to infection or injury. The conditions that cause secondary (referred) ear pain are broad and range from temporomandibular joint syndrome to inflammation of the throat.
In general, the reason for ear pain can be discovered by taking a thorough history of all symptoms and performing a physical examination, without need for imaging tools like a CT scan. However, further testing may be needed if red flags are present like hearing loss, dizziness, ringing in the ear or unexpected weight loss.
Management of ear pain depends on the cause. If there is a bacterial infection, antibiotics are sometimes recommended and over the counter pain medications can help control discomfort. Some causes of ear pain require a procedure or surgery
83% of children had at least one episode of a middle ear infection by 3 years of age.
Ear pain can present in one or both ears. It may or may not be accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, sensation of the world spinning, ear itchiness, or a sense of fullness in the ear. The pain may or may not worsen with chewing. The pain may also be continuous or intermittent.
Ear pain due to an infection is the most common in children and can occur in babies. Adults may need further evaluation if they have hearing loss, dizziness or ringing in the ear. Addition red flags include diabetes, a weakened immune system, swelling seen on the outer ear, or swelling along the jaw.
Ear pain has a variety of causes, the majority of which are not life-threatening. Ear pain can originate from a part of the ear itself, known as primary ear pain, or from an anatomic structure outside the ear that is perceived as pain within the ear, known as secondary ear pain. Secondary ear pain is a type of referred pain, meaning that the source of the pain differs from the location where the pain is felt. Primary ear pain is more common in children, whereas secondary (referred) pain is more common in adults.