Pain in the ear or earache is quite common, especially in children. It can be very painful and frustrating. While some earaches can be managed at home, others can be severe requiring a person to visit a doctor. The doctor will diagnose the cause of the earache and prescribe the correct treatment.

Earache can be caused by several factors, including a problem originating from the inside of the ear or a problem outside the ear. The ear is typically involved in our hearing and our balance. So any problem with the ear can lead to symptoms such as loss of hearing, a ringing in the ear, or dizziness.

In this article, we discuss some of the main causes of earache and when to go to an emergency room.

Causes of earache

There are many different causes of ear pain. They are classified into primary causes and secondary causes. Primary diagnoses are problems that originate within the ear, while secondary diagnoses originate from outside the year.

Primary causes

Some of the conditions that usually cause ear pain within the ear include:

Otitis Media

This is an extremely common cause of ear pain in children. It can also occur in adults, but is less common. It occurs when fluid and inflamed tissue build up in the middle ear space due to an infection. Children with Otitis media report a painful ear, as well as a high temperature. They may also report a few days of nasal congestion and a cough. Otitis media usually gets better on its own, and it can be treated with just painkillers. However, if there is no improvement, then you should seek medical attention.

Otitis externa [infection in the ear canal]

This is an infection of the outer part of the ear. It is common in both adults and children. It is also common in people who swim regularly or people with skin conditions such as eczema around the ear. Some of the symptoms of otitis externa include a sore or itchy ear, discharge coming from the ear, and difficulty hearing. Treatment for this type of ear pain is usually an ear spray or ear drop.


The ears usually produce a waxy substance to protect the ear canals. This wax moves typically out of the ear on its own. But sometimes, a plug of wax can form, causing a blockage in the ear canal. This can make you feel deaf on one or both sides and even feel dizzy. It is important to note that using Q-Tips to try to remove ear wax usually only makes the problem worse by packing the wax down deeper in the ear canal.

Common cold

A common cold can also cause pain in the ear. This is because of the excessive mucus produced when one has a cold. Some of this mucus can collect in the middle of the ear, exerting pressure on the eardrum and causing pain.

Other primary causes of ear pain include trauma/injury, boils, pimples, foreign bodies, etc.

Secondary causes

These include


This refers to the infection of the sinuses. Sinuses are void spaces found behind the nose, between the eyes, and within the cheekbones and forehead.

Dental problems

Dental problems can also contribute to earache. Some of the most common dental problems associated with ear pain include a cracked tooth, toothache, and decayed tooth.

When to visit an ER

As mentioned above, some causes of ear pain can be managed at home while others warrant a visit to an emergency room such as Emergency Room City Base. Here are examples of situations that warrant a doctor’s attention.

When the pain lasts for more than two days

If you or your child experiences ear pain that lasts for more than two days after trying home remedies, you or your child should see a doctor immediately. The enduring pain could sign that the infection is escalating and should be treated with antibiotics promptly.

High fevers

If you or your child has an ear infection that is accompanied by high fevers, you should see a doctor immediately. A high fever could mean that the infection is worsening, and the body isn’t successfully eliminating it. The doctor will prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria that cause the infection and pain and help lower your fever.

Ear discharge

If you notice that your ear or your child’s ear is producing a discharge, you should immediately seek medical attention.

Hearing loss

When you notice that you cannot hear the way you normally do, the best thing is to visit an emergency room as soon as possible.