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What Causes Tenderness in the Outer Ear & Home Remedies for It

Tenderness in the outer ear is often the first sign of some sort of problem in the ear. As the outer ear is exposed, there can be various ways in which it can get affected. While there are many symptoms suggesting outer ear problems, it is important to know the causes of tenderness in outer ear. Some home remedies for tenderness in outer ear can be of great help in treating the problem at home.

The outer, middle and inner ear together form the human ear with only the outer ear being visible to the naked eye. The earlobe along with the ear canal that extends to the ear drums together form the outer ear. Many people experience pain and tenderness in the outer ear, which can be extremely upsetting. Other symptoms such as redness of the outer ear and swelling in the concerned area also accompany such tenderness.

Hence, it is necessary to understand what causes tenderness in outer ear and seek medical opinion, if necessary. The pain can either be quite sharp and piercing or be an aching one. In severe cases, the patient is unable to even bear someone touching the painful area. In most cases, the tenderness in outer ear and pain is due to local causes. However, if the cause is related to inner ear or other problems, it may require more attention.

What Causes Tenderness in the Outer Ear & Home Remedies for It

Causes of Tenderness in Outer Ear

Being mainly made up of cartilage and skin, the outer ear is a sensitive part of the body. You will notice that extreme weather conditions can cause redness in the ears. Also, if someone pulls your ears too tightly, your ears start aching. Tenderness in outer ear too can be caused due to a variety of reasons.

Mentioned below are the major causes of tenderness in outer ear:

  • Sunburn resulting from overexposure to sun is one of the commonest causes of tenderness in outer ear. If your ears come in contact with a corrosive chemical, it too can result in immense pain and feeling of tenderness in the outer ear region.
  • Sleeping on a hard or a rough surface is also a common cause of tender outer ear. If you sleep on a hard surface on one side of your head, your outer ear becomes tender and starts paining. However, such a pain is temporary and alleviates after some time.
  • Many people often experience tenderness of outer ear or auricles caused due to irritation from earrings. If your earrings contain an allergic metal in it, it can irritate the skin and cause pain and tenderness in the outer ear.
  • Polychondritis, a cartilage disorder which involves the cartilages of the ear and the joints can be one of the causes of tenderness in outer ear or auricles. Being an autoimmune disease, it can cause immense pain along with swelling and tenderness in the outer ear region.
  • A bacterial or fungal infection can also cause tenderness in outer ear. It is medically known as otitis externa and in most cases, the infection takes place in the ear canal with the outer ear, especially auricle and pinna, being affected the most. Since chlorine water which is found in swimming pools contains a plethora of germs and bacteria, swimmers are quite susceptible to such pain and tenderness in the outer ear.
  • Another common cause of tenderness in outer ear is injury. There can be several forms of injury be it a sudden blow to the ears or ear piercing thereby causing pain, swelling and tenderness in the outer ear. In case of a mild injury, the pain and swelling heals within a few days but serious injuries such as laceration or a major cut may take some time to heal and some may need immediate medical attention.
  • There are several types of skin diseases such as contact dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema which can cause tenderness in the outer ear. In such cases, curing the skin disease completely helps to reduce the tenderness and pain in the ears.
  • The outer ear also becomes tender to touch if the ear cartilage is damaged due to repeated pressure or force on it. If you talk on your phone for a long time while pressing it hard against the ear, it can cause tenderness of the outer ear.
  • In some serious cases, the cause of tenderness in outer ear can be ear cancer. A type of cancer known as basal cell cancer of skin surrounds the ear with the pain and tenderness being just the beginning of a major disease.

Home Remedies for Tenderness in Outer Ear

As there are several causes of tenderness in outer ear, identifying and treating the cause is essential. In most cases, curing the underlying cause helps to take care of the tenderness in the ears. Medical treatment for tender outer ear may include the use of anti-inflammatory medicines, antibiotics, pain killers and eardrops.

However, there are an array of home remedies for tenderness in outer ear which can help to effectively cure the symptoms and tenderness.

Here are some of the best home remedies for outer ear pain and tenderness.

  • Aloe Vera Gel – Aloe vera gel is one of the most popular home remedies, which has a soothing effect on your tender outer ears and particularly when the tenderness is caused due to sunburn.
  • Heat and Cold Pack – Alternately applying a heat and then cold pack for one minute each on the tender ears helps to reduce pain, swelling and also soothes the outer ear tenderness to a large extent. You can repeat this twice or thrice every day for quick relief.
  • Ice Bag – If you are unable to bear the heat, simply place an ice bag on the tender ears for three to four minutes to get instant relief from a sudden trauma or blow to the ears. Ice application is a great home remedy when the cause of tenderness in outer ear is any kind of injury.
  • Sleep Straight – One of the simplest home remedies for tenderness of outer ear is to avoid sleeping on your sides. This will help relax the tender outer ears and with no added pressure they are sure to heal rapidly.
  • Mineral Oil – A great home remedy to cure tenderness in outer ear in swimmers is to coat both ears with mineral oil before entering the pool. The bacteria and germs from the pool water will not be able to affect your already tender ears and it will slowly start to heal.


Tenderness in outer ear is not a major problem in most cases and can be managed with simple home remedies. However, if you feel that these home remedies for tenderness in outer ear are not working as they should, then it is best to consult your doctor at the earliest to identify the problem causing tenderness in outer ear and get appropriate treatment.


  1. Healthline – Ear Pain: https://www.healthline.com/health/ear-pain
  2. Mayo Clinic – Ear Infection: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ear-infections/symptoms-causes/syc-20351616
  3. WebMD – Earache and Ear Pain: https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ear-infection/earache-types
  4. Cleveland Clinic – Ear Infection (Otitis Externa): https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21248-otitis-externa-swimmers-ear

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 8, 2023

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