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Earaches/Ear Infections

Lee Health: Your Trusted Health Partner for Treating Ear Infections and Earaches

Earaches are a common problem, especially in children. While it can be worrying it will often improve within a few days even without treatment. Read more from our Lee Health Pediatric ENT specialists to learn more about common earache causes, risks, and treatment options.

Understanding Earaches and Ear Infections

While earaches usually occur in children, they can also occur in adults. Earache can be a sharp, dull or burning ear pain that comes and goes or is constant. An earache can affect one or both ears, but generally it is only in one ear. 

While causes for earaches can vary, some of the more common causes for earaches include injury, infection, irritation in the ear, or referred pain. Referred pain refers to pain originating elsewhere but felt in the ear such as jaw or teeth pain. 

Injury, infection, irritation in the ear, or referred pain may cause earaches. Referred pain is pain felt somewhere other than the infection or injured site. For example, pain that originates in the jaw or teeth may be felt in the ear. Causes of earaches can include:

If your child is experiencing ear pain contact your Lee Health practitioner to assess the cause.

  • Trust Lee Health for exceptional pediatric primary care services. Our experts help your child at every stage of life with regular check-ups, screenings, vaccinations, and plans for long-term health for children of all ages.

Earache Symptoms

Earaches can develop from injury, infection, or even referred pain. Common symptoms include:

  • ear pain
  • impaired hearing
  • fluid drainage from ear

Additionally children can typically show more symptoms, such as:

  • fever
  • sense of fullness in the ear
  • difficulty sleeping
  • tugging or pulling at the ear
  • crying or acting irritable more than usual
  • headache
  • loss of appetite
  • loss of balance

Pediatric ENT Locations Serving Southwest Florida

Ear Infections

The most common cause of earaches are ear infections or acute otitis media. Ear infections can occur in the outer, middle, and inner ear.

Outer ear infection is caused by damaging the skin inside the ear canal: Common causes include: swimming, wearing hearing aids or headphones, or putting cotton swabs or fingers in your ear canal. When the skin in the ear canal that gets scratched or irritated it leads to infection.

Middle ear infection is caused by infections that stem from a respiratory tract infection. These infections lead to fluid buildup behind the ear drums, breading bacteria.

Labyrinthitis is when the structure in your inner ear called a labyrinth becomes inflamed, often affecting your hearing or balance. This disorder is caused by viral or bacterial infections from respiratory illnesses.

Other common causes of earaches

  • change in pressure, such as when flying on a plane
  • use of cotton swabs in the ear
  • earwax buildup
  • use of cotton swabs in the ear
  • a foreign object in the ear
  • strep throat
  • sinus infection
  • shampoo or water trapped in the ear

Less common causes of earaches

  • infected tooth
  • impacted tooth
  • eczema in the ear canal
  • perforated eardrum
  • arthritis affecting the jaw

One or both ears may be affected.

Pediatric ENT Specialists Near You

Earache and Ear Infection Treatment Options

Since ear infections often clear up on their own, treatment begins with managing pain and monitoring the problem, but in some cases antibiotics are prescribed to clear the infection. If your child's ear pain persists for more than two or three days or progressively gets worse contact your healthcare provider. For some people they are prone to having multiple ear infections which can cause hearing problems and other serious complications.

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