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Earache (cont.)

What other symptoms are associated with earache and ear pain?

Aside from pain symptoms of an earache depends upon the underlying cause

Outer ear (helix, auricle) inflammation include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Fever
  • Auricle trauma causes a well-defined hematoma or clot in the outer ear

Otitis externa or swimmer's ear symptoms include:

  • Pain, fullness or pressure
  • Itching
  • Drainage
  • Decreased hearing
  • Tinnitus or ear ringing

Otitis media (middle ear infection) symptoms include:

  • Deep pain
  • Decreased hearing
  • Fever
  • Fullness
  • Ear drainage if there is associated ear drum perforation
  • Inner ear inflammation (labyrinthitis, vertigo)
  • Vertigo (a sense of the room or surroundings spinning)
  • Loss of balance
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Decreased hearing, tinnitus (these may be symptoms of Meniere's disease or acoustic neuroma)

Myringitis symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Decreased hearing
  • Ear fullness
  • Drainage that may be bloody

Other symptoms associated with other causes of earache:

  • When ear pain occurs because of an illness or injury from a structure adjacent to the ear, the specific symptoms will be related to that structure. For example, TMJ inflammation may lead to earache, but most often is associated with pain when opening the mouth or with chewing. Dental issues may cause ear pain, but most likely involve tooth or gum pain.

When to seek medical care for an earache and ear pain

In most instances, earaches often self-limiting, and don't require extensive medical attention.

  • Adults with colds or upper respiratory infections may develop ear pain in association with a runny nose and post-nasal drainage. The ear pain should resolve as the cold gets better. Sometimes ear fullness may last a little longer.
  • Middle ear infections in children are often self-limiting and do not need antibiotics, but it is difficult sometimes to determine that fever and fussiness in an infant is caused by an ear infection. It is reasonable to contact a health-care professional to determine whether the infant or child needs to be evaluated.
  • Newborns and infants younger than 8 weeks of age should never have a fever, and if this occurs, urgent medical care should be accessed.
  • It is not normal to have blood, pus or other fluid draining from the ear, and this should prompt a visit to a health-care professional.
  • Pain that lasts for a few hours or increases in intensity should be evaluated by a health-care professional.
  • Earache associated with hearing loss, unexplained fever, and general malaise or feeling poorly should be clues that care may be needed.
  • Vertigo often requires medical care especially if there also is hearing loss and tinnitus, for these may be the signs of a nerve tumor called an acoustic neuroma.
  • People with diabetes or those who are immunocompromised are at risk for malignant otitis externa, a condition that requires aggressive antibiotic treatment. The symptoms include earache, fever, drainage from the ear canal and redness around the ear. These should be warning signs to seek medical care.
  • A person complaining of earache, but also has a fever, headache, neck stiffness, lethargy, and may be showing signs of meningitis or encephalitis and should seek emergency medical care immediately.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/23/2016

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