Ear pain, or otalgia, is when you experience a dull or sharp pain or a burning sensation in the ear. It occurs in adults as well as children. The pain may occur all of a sudden. Initially, it may affect one ear and then progress gradually to the next. At times, it may affect both ears. When ear pain develops inside the ear, it is called primary otalgia, whereas when it develops in the outer ear, it is called secondary otalgia.

What are the symptoms of ear pain?

Ear pain develops as a result of an ear infection or an injury. The common symptoms are as follows:

  • Pain in the ear
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear
  • Impaired hearing

In children, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Difficulty in hearing
  • Sleeplessness
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Loss of balance
  • Pulling of the ear due to discomfort

What are the causes of ear pain?

Ear pain is commonly caused by infections in the inner, middle, and outer ear canal due to swimming, wearing hearing aids and headphones, and putting unsanitised fingers in the ears. Ear infections may also develop due to viral or bacterial infections, such as flu or the common cold. 


The other common causes of ear pain are as follows:

  • Using cotton swabs or earbuds to clean the ears
  • Shampoo or water getting trapped in the ear
  • Foreign objects
  • Change in pressure while flying
  • Accumulation of earwax
  • Sinus infection
  • Strep throat (Inflammation and pain in the throat)
  • Tooth infection
  • Eczema (skin inflammation) in the ear canal
When should you consult a doctor?

It is advisable to consult a doctor or your primary healthcare provider if you or your child has a persistent fever due to severe ear pain. Importantly, consult a doctor immediately if you suffer from the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Severe ear pain
  • Severe headache
  • Swelling around the ear
  • Blood or pus draining from the ear
  • Ear pain does not reduce in 24 to 48 hours
  • Drooping facial muscles

To book an appointment, please contact Yashoda Hospitals, Secunderabad, India.

What are the diagnosis and treatment options?

Diagnosis: Ear pain is diagnosed by studying the patient’s symptoms and medical history. An otoscope (instrument with a light) is used to examine the ears, nose, and throat. It helps detect any redness or swelling in the eardrum. 

Doctors also use a pneumatic otoscope, a tool that blows air into the ear to check if the eardrum moves. If there is fluid in the ear, the eardrum does not move.

Doctors may also conduct tympanometry – a test that uses sound and air pressure to check the fluid in the ear.

Treatment: The treatment of ear infections usually consists of a course of antibiotics or ear drops.

If earwax gets accumulated, wax-softening ear drops are prescribed. These drops help the wax to fall out of the ear. The doctor may also use a suction device to remove the wax.


An ear infection is usually the common reason for persistent ear pain, and it is easily treatable with antibiotics and ear drops in the early stages. Please consult a doctor for diagnosis and treatment if your ear pain does not subside within 24 hours.

Consult Our Experts Now


Frequently Asked Questions about Ear Pain

Yes, changes in barometric pressure can cause ear pain. When barometric pressure changes, there is pressure imbalance on the outside of the body and the ear canal, resulting in ear pain.

Ear pain is often caused by ear infections that may occur due to cold or respiratory illness. Common symptoms of Covid are sore throat and a stuffy nose, among others. Although Covid-19 does not directly cause ear infections, they could occur due to the congestion caused during Covid.

As the sinuses and the ears are connected inside the head, any congestion in the sinuses can affect the ear pressure. This can lead to symptoms of ear pain, such as dizziness, pain, and discomfort.

The ears and sinuses are connected by tiny tubes known as Eustachian tubes that maintain the level of the fluid and pressure in the middle and inner ear. When you suffer from an allergy, cold, or sinus infection, the Eustachian tubes cannot open or close properly. This may cause a painful ear-popping sensation.

When the tonsils grow large, they tend to block the Eustachian tubes. If the tubes stay blocked for long, a sticky fluid forms in the middle ear that, in turn, may impair hearing and lead to ear infection and pain.

Disclaimer: The information provided herein is accurate, updated and complete as per the best practices of the Company. Please note that this information should not be treated as a replacement for physical medical consultation or advice. We do not guarantee the accuracy and the completeness of the information so provided. The absence of any information and/or warning to any drug shall not be considered and assumed as an implied assurance of the Company. We do not take any responsibility for the consequences arising out of the aforementioned information and strongly recommend you for a physical consultation in case of any queries or doubts.