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What Can Cause Ear Pain When Chewing?

Ear pain can occur at anytime, and it is extremely painful at times when chewing. There are a lot of conditions that can cause ear pain when chewing; and there are also several ways to deal with it. Read below to know more about ear pain when chewing.

What Can Cause Ear Pain When Chewing?

What Can Cause Ear Pain When Chewing?

Ear pain when chewing can occur because of any one of the following reasons.

Ear Wax

Our ear makes as well as gets rid of the ear wax all the time. However, there is the gunk build ups and hardens in the ear when the process does not work properly. This hardening of the ear wax blocks the ear canal and doctors, call this as impacted wax. This ear wax might cause ear pain at times, especially when chewing.

It must be strictly noted not to use cotton swabs to try to remove the ear wax out, as by doing this it would get pushed further into the ear canal. You could hurt your ear or your ear may get infected with this and you may even lose your hearing for sometime by doing this. So, for treating mildly impacted ears at home, you need to use an OTC kit or might put few drops of hydrogen peroxide or baby oil in the affected ears so as to soften the hardened ear wax. However, it is always better to see your ENT specialist who would get the wax out easily without causing any damage.

Swimmer’s Ear

One more reason why you might be experiencing ear pain when chewing, could be due to Swimmer’s ear. You probably must be having an outer ear infection when your ear hurts when you pull on the earlobe or even push on the flaps that close the earlobe. This usually occurs when water gets trapped in the ear canal and it begins to breed germs. There would also be symptoms of your ear turning red, swollen, itchy and also pus leaking out of the ear. It must be mentioned that this condition is not contagious.

You can avoid swimmer’s ear by keeping your ears dry during as well as after swimming. You must use prescribed antibiotic ear drops for clearing up the condition.

Middle Ear Infection

A cold, or sinus infection, or allergies, can block the ear tubes present in your middle ear. When there is a fluid buildup in the middle ear and when it gets infected, it is called as Otitis media. This is in fact the most common causes of ear pain when chewing. You might be prescribed with some antibiotics and also some medicines for treating cold and allergy symptoms too. If this is left untreated, ear infection can spread and even cause a loss of hearing.

Air Pressure

One more reason why you must be having ear pain when chewing, could be due to the air pressure. Usually our ear does a wonderful job of keeping the pressure equal on the both sides of our eardrum. However, some quick changes, such as when we are on an airplane or when in an elevator, this balance can be disturbed and our ear might get hurt and we might have difficulty hearing.

Air pressure can be avoided by staying awake while on an airplane, especially when the plane descends. It is good to avoid air travel if you have a sinus infection, cold or symptoms of allergies.


There are a lot of people who do it even without their own knowledge. Bruxism generally brings a kind of relaxation in most people and that’s why they get in to the habit of doing it. Your dentist would get to know about this while examining your teeth as there would be wear and tear present in your teeth. Some people find bruxism as a stress relieving act. This act can also result in ear pain when chewing.

You must become aware of bruxism if you have symptoms of ear pain, sore jaw, headaches, insomnia, anorexia, or if you have anxiety or depression. For treating the condition, you must avoid anxiety and stress whenever possible, avoid hard food, make a habit of relaxing the facial muscles, have massage on your shoulders and neck and release tension and also try doing meditation and other relaxation exercises. Moreover, you must also talk to your dentist for the appropriate treatments for the same.

TMJ Or Temporomandibular Joint Disorders

The TMJ disorders can also be one of the reasons for ear pain when chewing. The Temporomandibular joint is the joint acting as a hinge where the upper jaw and the lower jaw meet at the temporal bone. This joint controls the biting motion and also enables you to make a lateral movement while crushing the food. These two mechanics are important for you to chew. TMJ disorders usually stem from teeth grinding or bruxism, generally while you sleep. Even, a dislocation of the joint can also result in TMJ disorder. Having arthritis of the Temporomandibular joint can also cause pain while chewing.

Ear pain is a common symptom of the TMJ disorder. The actual pain emanates from your temporomandibular joint, but radiates to your ears. You may also have jaw aches, especially while chewing, or talking or yawning. There are several types of treatments for TMJ disorders which include conservative use of anti-inflammatory drugs or even surgery.

Other Causes

There are also some other causes of ear pain when chewing. You might experience a pain in your ear when you have severe throat infection, infections like tonsillitis or even pharyngitis. Moreover, tooth abscesses, and cavities may also result in ear pain when chewing. So, you must get rid of these underlying causes at first in order to deal with the ear pain.

It must also be mentioned that though some causes of ear pain could be less serious, such as cellulitis; there might also be some serious conditions such as tumors that might be causing ear pain when chewing. If you experience a severe pain in ear and if it does not go even after the home treatments or the OTC ear drops, you must see your doctor.


Now, that we are aware of some of the causes of ear pain when chewing and ways to deal with the pain, it is obvious that next time you experience a pain in your ear while chewing food, you can find out the underlying cause and also try to deal with it. Talk to your doctor about appropriate treatments for your ear pain.


  1. Mayo Clinic. “Earwax blockage.” (URL: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/earwax-blockage/symptoms-causes/syc-20353007)
  2. Cleveland Clinic. “Swimmer’s Ear (External Otitis).” (URL: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15712-swimmers-ear-external-otitis)
  3. American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery. “Otitis Media (Middle Ear Infection).” (URL: https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/otitis-media-middle-ear-infection/)
  4. MedlinePlus. “Air Travel and Your Health.” (URL: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000406.htm)
  5. Mayo Clinic. “Bruxism (teeth grinding).” (URL: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bruxism/symptoms-causes/syc-20356095)
  6. Mayo Clinic. “Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome.” (URL: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tmj/symptoms-causes/syc-20350941)
  7. American Dental Association. “TMJ Disorders.” (URL: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/tmj)
  8. American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery. “Earaches.” (URL: https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/earaches/)
  9. American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery. “Cellulitis.” (URL: https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/cellulitis/)
  10. Mayo Clinic. “Ear infection (middle ear).” (URL: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ear-infections/symptoms-causes/syc-20351616)

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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