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Why the ears hurt

Earache is common for adults and children and has a variety of causes. Often, pain can actually be caused by problems with the organ of hearing, but it also happens that the pain only shoots into the ears, while the actual reason is the inflammation of the throat, cervical osteochondrosis, a sharp rise in pressure, or tooth caries. Therefore, if the ear hurts, it is necessary to be examined by an ENT specialist, who will diagnose and prescribe an effective treatment.


  1. The structure of the ear
  2. Diseases of external ear
  3. The pernicious influence of headphones
  4. Middle ear
  5. Other illnesses

1The structure of the ear

In order to determine whether the pain in the ears is actually caused by the disease of the hearing organ, you can push on the tragus (the small prominence on the inner side of the external ear). If the problem is in the ears, such pressure will be painful. If there is no painful response, the cause must be sought elsewhere. When having an ear disease, the treatment depends on the affected area.

structure of ear

The organ of hearing consists of three parts: the outer, middle and inner ear. Pathological processes in any part of the hearing organ can cause pain in the ears and hearing loss in both adults and children.

The outer part of the ear consists of the auricle and the ear canal, which ends in the air- and waterproof eardrum. The auricle collects sound and directs it to the auditory canal and to the eardrum, where they cause its oscillation. This vibration is received by the ossicles in the middle ear and is transmitted further.

The middle ear consists of a tympanic cavity and includes three auditory ossicles, which are connected to each other – the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil) and stapes (stirrup). Malleus is situated close to the tympanic membrane. It receives vibrations from the membrane and transmits them along the chain. Eventually, the sound is transmitted through the base of the stapes into the inner ear.

The middle ear also connects to the nasopharynx via the Eustachian tube. The tube lets the air required for balancing the pressure on either side of the eardrum into the tympanic cavity. If the pressure on one side does not meet the requirements of the normal air pressure, it will bend under the air pressure, which in turn violates the right perception of signals and will cause pain and a feeling of fullness in the ear.

The inner ear is separated from the middle by completely closed membranes called windows. It also has the most difficult structure. That’s why it is called the labyrinth. It is here that the

transformation of signals received from the outside into the nerve impulses takes place. The inner part of the ear is also the place where the vestibular apparatus is situated.

Therefore, an inflammation of the inner ear is often accompanied by dizziness, nausea and loss of coordination. The lesions of the inner ear are dangerous because the dead cells do not regenerate, so if you don’t pay attention to the pain in the ears in time, you can actually go deaf.

2Diseases of external ear

Old man with tinnitusAuricle is the part of the ear which is most susceptible to the adverse effects of the environment. For example, walking without a hat in cold or windy weather often causes ear- and headache. The sooner you protect the ears from the cold or from the wind, the sooner the pain passes. If you don’t do that, it will be very difficult to cure frozen auricles.

If, as a result of frostbite, the skin begins to peel off, itch and vesications appear, you can apply a bandage with petroleum jelly. In more severe cases you need to wipe the ear with alcohol, and then smear them with a repairing remedy. You also need to see a doctor, so he could prescribe appropriate drugs. If the frostbite is very serious, the amputation of ears is required, otherwise the gangrene develops, which can be fatal.

If the ear gets inflated, it can lead to various diseases, especially acute respiratory disease that can cause inflammation of the middle ear. Therefore, the first headache as a result of a strong wind is a sign that it is necessary to wear a hat or enter into a building.

The inflammation of the outer ear can also be caused by fungus. In this case, you can not engage in self-medication, because you need to get to identify the type of pathogen before choosing the drug. Otomycosis can only be cured by a type of drug developed specially for the type of fungus that invaded the outer ear. Many fungi are resistant to the remedies that are aimed at destruction of other pathogens. The earlier you start treating otomycosis, the better. If the illness is neglected, the treatment will take years.

Cerumen impaction can also cause earache. You shouldn’t try getting rid of it on your own: it is located very deep, so it is hard to get it, but it’s easy to hurt the ear canal, or push the impaction further into the ear. An ENT specialist can not only get rid of the cerumen impaction, but also check the ear canal for the presence of inflammation which the impaction can trigger.

3The pernicious influence of headphones

Listening to loud music through headphones (especially those models that are inserted into the ear) can cause earache, later – hearing loss in both children and adults. And the danger is not only in that headphones completely cover the ear canal, but also in the fact that most people turn the volume up too much in order to drown out the sound of the environment.

Also, do not forget that music is a stimulant of the nervous system in both adults and children. And while it is beneficial in reasonable amount, a prolonged and loud listening causes nervous system disorders.

Such a powerful sonic attack kills hair cells of the inner ear that process and convert signals into nerve impulses and they never recover. In addition, the headphones block the access of air to the eardrum and create ideal conditions for the development of pathogenic organisms.

If you listen to loud music through headphones continuously for several hours a day, the inner ear cells will gradually deteriorate. The result is hearing loss or complete deafness. In the latter case even powerful hearing aids won’t be useful.

To prevent hearing loss, it is necessary to listen to music through headphones quietly or not to listen to it at all in crowded and noisy places, as the quite sound isn’t heard properly and loud sound is harmful to your ears. It is not allowed to listen to the music for more than an hour in a row. You should definitely take a break. At the same time it is necessary to remove the headphones from your ears. If you feel pain in the ears or hearing loss, listening to music though headphones must be stopped.

4Middle ear

Otitis media is a so-called inflammation of the tympanic cavity, which is the most common disease of the middle part of the ear, especially in children. Usually, it is accompanied by inflammation of the Eustachian tube, which is the main cause of inflammation in the middle ear.

Inflammation of the auditory tube in both children and adults is a complication of a cold, sore throat, flu and other respiratory diseases that cause the swelling of the nasopharynx mucosa. Then the infection moves from the nasopharynx to the Eustachian tube, which also causes its swelling. This blocks the flow of air into the tympanic cavity, leading to inflammation. Very often, otitis media occurs in children who have a very short Eustachian tube.

Another cause of otitis media is ingress of water into the Eustachian tube during diving or nasal lavage. If the liquid gets into the middle ear, it causes inflammation. Therefore, when water ingress into the middle ear is suspected, one should use vasoconstrictive decongestant nose drops for a few days. This will cause a decrease in swelling and help the water to come out.

Adults and children are not allowed to treat otitis media on their own: only under medical supervision. If the disease becomes more complicated and will turn into a purulent form, pus is able to break through the membrane in the outer and middle ear. If the eardrum was broken, the disease may be cured, but if the pus enters the inner ear and destroys its cells, it can cause inflammation of the auditory nerve, disrupt the vestibular system, reach the brain and cause meningitis.

Therefore, inner ear diseases often result not only in earache, but also in dizziness, nausea, loss of coordination. In many cases, it is accompanied by hearing loss or complete deafness.

5Other illnesses

Since the ears are very close to the brain, blood vessels and other vital systems, earache can be triggered by pathological processes associated with other organs. It can be:

  • inflammation of the jaw joint, the gums, tooth decay;
  • sore throat;
  • inflammation of the parotid lymph nodes;
  • reaction to a tumor near the ears or in the area of ​​the skull.

Cervical osteochondrosis often causes earache. It happens because spinal discs are displaced and clamp the blood arteries and nerves. Earache is often associated with the disease of the cardiovascular system, and may signal an impending stroke, as well as a sharp increase in blood pressure. Therefore, if congestion of ears is accompanied by dizziness, seeing spots, it is necessary to call a doctor as fast as you can.

Given that the permanent or briefly disappearing earache can be caused by different reasons, it is necessary to turn to an ENT specialist for the diagnosis. You should be ready that in addition to the otolaryngologist you will have to visit a neurologist, a dentist, cardiologist or an oncologist. Timely treatment can save not only your hearing but also your life.