Ear pain – possible causes

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There are many possible causes of pain in or around the ear, although the patients or doctors are considering a few of them. The main causes are allergies, ear infections or wax.

Another cause could be Eustachian tube dysfunction. The doctors often recommend multiple doses of antibiotics, antihistamines and decongestant nasal sprays.


1. Overview
2. Why a treatment for ear pain does not help?
3. The most common reasons that cause pain or discomfort in the ear
4. Investigation and diagnosis

Why a treatment for ear pain does not help?

What most people do not realize is that ear pain may be the result of conditions that do not include ear itself. For example, when a child’s temporal teething, kids tend to pull and insert their fingers in their ears, although there is no ear disease.

Some disorders of the head or neck can trigger ear pain. The main reason is secondary pain transmitted through nerves to the ear, although current diseases are the neck or head.

The most common reasons that cause pain or discomfort in the ear

When spinal nerves C2, C3 and C4 are involved and the pain is felt mainly on the mastoid, the causes could be cervical collar disc disease, cervical meningioma or sternocleidomastoid muscle tendinitis.

When cranial nerve 7 (posterior auricular nerve) is affected, discomfort is felt behind the ear and has as a trigger the geniculate neuralgia or pontocerebellar angle tumors.

The cranial nerve 5 (auricular temporal nerve) brings about discomfort that feels the external ear and can be triggered by temporomandibular joint disease, dental problems and parotid gland tumors or infections.

When involved cranial nerve 9 (Jacobson nerve) pain is felt inside the ear and can be caused by tonsillitis, sinusitis, throat tumors, Aden and Eustachian tube dysfunction.

The cranial nerve 10 (Arnold nerve) makes pain to be felt especially on the ear canal and has as triggering factors gastroesophageal reflux, tumors in the neck and lingual tonsils.

Investigation and diagnosis

To determine the exact cause of the pain in a patient who presents during examination, no precise ear disease, requires a detailed consultation include head and neck, including an examination of the nasal cavity and the mouth, throat examination, cervical spine and temporomandibular joint.

Palpation of the area of the tonsils or base of the tongue is a quick way to discover the hidden causes of ear pain in the mouth and throat. ENT doctor may perform an optic endoscopy to examine more closely the hidden areas of the nose and throat.

Not all types of pain are caused by ear itself and it is likely that any other head or neck problem can cause ear pain.

If ENT exams are not enough to discover why feel the pain of ear, the next step is a consultant to medical specialists in rheumatology, neurology etc.



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