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What Causes an Earache?

Earache

By

Updated May 28, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

There are many causes of earaches. Ear pain may occur at many points in the pathway from the outside of the ear to deep in the inner ear. The following are some of the most common causes and solutions for an earache. You may also want to check your symptoms with About.com's Symptom Checker.

Middle Ear Infections

Earaches are often caused by a middle ear infection, especially in small children. It may be difficult to tell if a small child's earache is a result of an ear infection as they can't always communicate well. Learn the signs of an ear infection and how ear infections are treated. While it is more common for a middle ear infection to be present in a child some people do develop adult ear infections.

Swimmer's Ear

This condition is aptly named because it sometimes occurs in swimmers. Characteristics of this infection include a red outer ear which may be dry and flaky.

Fluid in the Ear

Fluid in the ear is a fairly common condition that can be present with or without an earache. It can be caused by an ear infection or a blockage of the Eustachian tube. It sometimes has to be treated with the surgical placement of ear tubes.

Barotrauma

This earache is caused by drastic changes in the atmospheric pressure, such as occurs when flying in an airplane or driving up a steep hill. It is also fairly common among scuba divers and sometimes results in a ruptured ear drum.

Ruptured Eardrum

This condition can be caused by any of the above conditions and also as a result of very loud noise such as a gunshot.

Perichondritis

Perichondritis is a less common cause of an earache which usually occurs as a result of trauma to the ear. It can be a result of ear piercing or other trauma.

Sources:

CDC.Swimmer's Ear "Otitis Externa". Accessed January 18, 2009 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001064.htm

MedlinePlus. Ear Infection - Acute. Accessed: January 18, 2009 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000638.htm

Medline Plus. Otitis Media with Effusion. Accessed: January 18, 2009 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001064.htm

Medline Plus. Perichondritis. Accessed: January 18, 2009 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001253.htm

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