Adult Earaches Usually Stem from More Than an Ear Infection

Health Minute

Though an earache might be something most people remember from childhood, adults are not immune from this kind of health issue. 

Ear pain in adults is less likely to be caused by an ear infection than ear pain in children, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

In adults, the NIH states that the pain is more likely caused by one of a variety of issues, including: 

  • Arthritis of the jaw
  • Buildup of ear wax
  • Ear injury from pressure changes (from high altitude and other causes)
  • Hole in the eardrum
  • Long-term ear infection
  • Object stuck in the ear
  • Short-term ear infection
  • Sinus infection
  • Sore throat
  • Temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ)
  • Tooth infection

Symptoms of an earache can include pain, fever, ear drainage, nausea, and vomiting, according to the NIH. 

When an adult has an earache, it’s important to treat the root cause of the problem, even if that problem isn’t directly related to the ear, such as arthritis of the jaw, according to the NIH. 

If you experience ear pain that doesn’t go away or gets worse within 24 to 48 hours you should call your doctor’s office, according to the NIH. 

Also call your doctor if you have severe pain that suddenly stops, according to the NIH. This could be a sign that your eardrum has ruptured.

The type of earache will determine the best treatment. The NIH recommends that:

  • For a general earache – take over-the-counter pain relievers, rest in an upright position instead of lying down, and put a cold pack on the outer ear for 20 minutes
  • For ear pain from pressure change – swallow hard or chew gum
  • For earaches caused by other medical issues, including excess wax buildup, object in ear, sinus infection, sore throat, tooth infection, and more – visit your doctor to determine the best treatment on a case-by-case basis.

For more information about earaches, talk with your doctor or visit us online to find a physician.