What causes ear infections and ear pain?

Ear infections and ear pain are common among adults and, especially, in children. They can arise at inconvenient times and be very uncomfortable. Depending on the severity of an ear ache or ear infection they may be very disruptive to daily life. Where they become chronic they may cause damage to the inner or middle ear, which is why it’s crucial to ensure that you get the support of a medical professional when you need it.

Identifying ear infections and ear pain

The discomfort caused by ear infections can be different for different people. For example, you may experience it as a dull, throbbing sensation whereas for your child it could feel like a burning pain. Severity can also vary greatly, from very intense pain that makes it difficult to function to a mild ache. Whenever ear pain is experienced alongside symptoms such as vomiting, a high fever or headaches it’s often worth seeking medical attention, especially where the person suffering is a child.

The causes

These are some of the most common causes of ear infections and ear pain:

  • A reaction to something in the environment, for example tobacco smoke can be very irritating to the ears
  • Allergies
  • Where something has become lodged in the ear, such as a small toy or due to the use of an ear bud
  • Problems with parts of the body nearby, for example when the adenoids (the tissue next to the tonsils) become infected
  • Being unwell, for example if you develop a cold or a sinus infection
  • If you have too much mucus in your system

All of these causes will affect the Eustachian tubes, which connect the ears to the back of the throat. A swelling of these tubes – or when they become blocked – means that fluid builds up in the middle ear and it’s this that causes ear infections and what we recognise as ear pain.

Identifying an issue with the ear

In adults it’s quite simple to identify where the problem is but children may find it harder to express what hurts. There are other symptoms that usually accompany problems with the ears, for example children may also have a high temperature and their sleep may be disrupted. Ear infections can make people feel very irritable and also cause issues with balance. Look out for any excessive touching of the ears too or situations where the child has lost their appetite.

Treating ear infections and ear pain

You can take steps to help avoid problems with the ears, including frequent hand washing and staying away from environments where there are irritants present or where people are sick. Medication, such as antibiotics, can help to reduce any inflammation in the ears to calm the pain and decongestants may be effective too. Home treatments often start with a simple course of painkillers.

Ear infections and ear pain are caused by problems with the Eustachian tubes that are often quite easy to prevent and simple to treat if they do arise.

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About Us

The Harley Street ENT clinic in London can provide all of the care that you need when you have an ear, nose, throat or balance problem. We ensure that you can get all of the right tests, treatments and advice in one convenient place.