7 Things That Might Be Contributing to an Earache

You feel an uncomfortable pressure in your ear. Perhaps you get a sharp, shooting pain or experience vertigo. Your ear could be the culprit — do you have an injury or infection?

Various circumstances cause you to experience this type of pain. Discovering the underlying cause is critical to effective treatment. Here are seven things that might be contributing to an earache and how to cope.

1. Grinding Your Teeth

Do you have anxiety or depression? If so, you might run a higher risk of bruxism or grinding your teeth. This behavior occurs consciously or unconsciously.

A recent study found a positive correlation between bruxism and high scores in the neuroticism trait of the 5-factor personality model. However, these patients did not report higher than normal levels of gum bleeding, canker sores or gingivitis. It appears this condition arises due to stress.

Unfortunately, bruxism can do more damage than cause the occasional earache. It can cause long-term damage to your mouth, including wear and tear to your teeth that can lead to loss. If a molar chips down to the nerve, you could experience excruciating pain. If you lack dental care, the agony can drive you to get an extraction. You’ll have more than a damaged smile — it’s hard to eat without your pearly whites.

2. Using Cotton Swabs

Did your childhood caregivers tell you to avoid sticking the cotton swab too far in your ear? If so, they offered sage advice. You could perforate your eardrum, also called your tympanic membrane. If this injury occurs, your pain could range from mild to severe, and you may experience ringing in your ear and nausea that causes vomiting. You could also lose your hearing in that ear, sometimes permanently.

Perforated eardrums can also occur due to sudden barometric pressure changes, such as flying on an airplane. If possible, try to delay air travel if you have any upper respiratory infection symptoms. Fortunately, today’s COVID-19 era makes people more hesitant to travel when sick for a good reason. Honor your body and delay your departure.

3. Going Swimming

Do you or your kids spend all summer pretending to be fish? If you live to swim, a nasty bacterium could be contributing to your earache. If it hurts when you tug or press your ear, this bug could be your culprit.

Swimmer’s ear occurs from bacteria in the water. Normally, your earwax does a commendable job of removing invading germs. However, it isn’t an impenetrable barrier. A mere scratch, perhaps from putting in earplugs, can break the seal, enabling germs to proliferate.

4. Sunburn

If your earache began after spending the day at the beach, sunburn could be the culprit. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to diagnose this contributing earache factor.

The skin on your ear is thinner and more delicate than elsewhere on your body, and a burn here can cause significant pain. Worse, it increases your risk of skin cancer, which could metastasis and spread to other parts of your body, although this phenomenon is relatively uncommon. Cover the outside portion of your ear with sunscreen and wear a big, floppy hat to protect these organs.

5. Infection

Sometimes, ear infections arise even if you or your child don’t spend time in the pool. Children are more likely than adults to get such conditions. They can cause pain, redness and drainage of fluid and pus.

Middle-ear infections or otitis media can wreak havoc with your sense of balance, causing dizziness and fainting. You could also experience severe nausea and vomiting and have a fever. You should seek treatment as your doctor may need to prescribe antibiotic drops. They can also give you medication to ease the worst of your pain.

In rare cases, your doctor may have to put tubes in your ears to facilitate fluid drainage. During this procedure, your physician makes a small incision in the eardrum and inserts a tympanostomy tube that either falls out on its own or requires surgical removal later.

6. Trauma

Trauma to your head can also contribute to an earache, rupturing your eardrum and causing substantial pain. The injury doesn’t always come from a direct physical blow.

Although rare, an extremely loud noise close to your ear can rupture your eardrum. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets rules regarding protective devices in the workplace. At home, you’re responsible for wearing plugs when necessary and not cranking up the tunes too loud.

7. Bullous Myringitis

This fancy term refers to a common type of earache that causes vesicles to grow on the tympanic membrane. It’s different from other infections in that the middle ear remains unaffected.

The peak incidence of this condition occurs during the winter months. The issue usually arises after a viral infection, although scientists have also implicated various bacterial strains and chemical exposure as potential causes. While the disorder may cause hearing loss, it’s usually transient.

Understand What Might Be Contributing To Your Earache

If you have pain on the side of your head, determining the cause can get you the right treatment. Understand what might be contributing to your earache and get relief today.