Symptoms and Signs of Earache (Ear Pain)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 11/12/2021

Doctor's Notes on Earache (Ear Pain)

Earache commonly results from an infection in the ear, usually a bacterial infection. Infection in the middle ear is known as otitis media, and infection of the outer ear and ear canal is called otitis externa. Otitis externa is also sometimes referred to as “swimmer’s ear.” Ear wax buildup and rapid changes in atmospheric pressure are other common causes of ear pain.

Symptoms of an earache can include:

  • a sharp, dull, or burning pain in the ear,
  • warm drainage of fluid or pus from the ear canal, or
  • bleeding in some cases. 

Associated symptoms depend on the cause and can include:

  • a feeling of fullness in the ear, 
  • reduced or muffled hearing capacity, 
  • pain when moving the external ear, 
  • fever
  • cough, and 
  • runny nose. 

Children or babies may tug or pull on the ear and appear restless.

What Is the Treatment for Earache?

Treatment for earache may include the following:

  • Earaches due to bacterial infection are treated with antibiotics. These may be given as ear drops or pills, depending on the location of the infection.
  • Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen are used to control pain associated with earache.
  • Antihistamines can be useful in treating certain causes of earache.
  • Other treatments for earache may include medications to control nausea or vertigo.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.