NHS Service

What Causes Earache And How Can I Treat It?

Understanding earache causes and treatments

Earaches are a common health issue in the UK, affecting both children and adults. According to the NHS, ear infections are the most frequent cause of earaches, especially in children. While earaches are more common in children, adults are not immune. Understanding the causes and treatments of earache is crucial for effective management and relief.

Causes of Earache

Earache can be a distressing symptom with various underlying causes. Understanding these causes can help in identifying the appropriate treatment and alleviating discomfort. Here are some common causes of earache:

Ear Infections

Ear infections are the primary cause of earache. There are two main types of ear infections.

Otitis Media is an infection of the middle ear, often following a cold or respiratory infection. Fluid builds up behind the eardrum, causing pain and sometimes fever. Children are particularly susceptible due to their narrower eustachian tubes.

Otitis Externa (Swimmer’s Ear) is an infection of the outer ear canal, often caused by water remaining in the ear after swimming. The moist environment encourages bacterial growth, leading to pain and inflammation.

Earwax Blockage

Excessive earwax can block the ear canal, causing discomfort and pain. While earwax is a natural substance that protects the ear, too much can lead to problems. Symptoms include earache, hearing loss and a feeling of fullness in the ear.

Sinus Infections

Sinus infections can cause referred pain to the ears. When the sinuses are inflamed, pressure can build up, affecting the ears and causing pain.

Throat Infections

Infections such as tonsillitis or pharyngitis can also lead to ear pain. The nerves in the throat and ears are connected, so an infection in the throat can cause referred pain to the ears.


Injuries to the ear, such as from a blow to the head or inserting objects like cotton swabs too deeply, can result in earache. Such injuries can damage the ear canal or eardrum.

Tooth Problems

Dental issues, such as a toothache or abscess, can cause referred pain to the ear. The proximity of the ear to the jaw means that pain in the teeth or jaw can easily be felt in the ear.

What are the Symptoms Associated with Earache?

Earache can present with various symptoms depending on the underlying cause. Recognising these symptoms can help in diagnosing and treating the condition effectively. Here are some common symptoms associated with earache:

  • Sharp or dull pain in the ear
  • Hearing loss
  • A feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Fluid drainage from the ear
  • Fever
  • Itching in the ear
  • Dizziness

What are the Treatments for Earache?

Treating earache depends on its underlying cause. Here are some common treatments for different types of earaches. Many mild earaches can be treated at home with simple remedies:

  • Warm Compress: Applying a warm cloth or heating pad to the affected ear can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers like paracetamol or ibuprofen can alleviate pain and reduce fever.
  • Olive Oil Drops: Warm (not hot) olive oil drops can be used to soften earwax or soothe an inflamed ear canal.

If home remedies do not provide relief or if symptoms worsen, it is important to seek medical advice. Treatments may include:

  • Antibiotics: For bacterial ear infections, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics. It is important to complete the entire course of antibiotics to ensure the infection is fully cleared.
  • Ear Drops: Prescription ear drops may be given to treat infections or inflammation in the ear canal.
  • Earwax Removal: If earwax blockage is the cause, a healthcare provider may perform ear irrigation or recommend ear drops to dissolve the wax.

Preventing earache involves several strategies:

  • Do not use cotton swabs or other objects to clean the ear canal. This can push wax deeper or cause injury.
  • After swimming or bathing, dry the ears thoroughly to prevent infections. Using earplugs while swimming can also help.
  • Colds and sinus infections can lead to ear infections. Treating these conditions early can prevent complications.
  • Maintaining good oral health can prevent dental issues that may cause ear pain.

Touchwood Pharmacy is Here to Help!

Earaches are a common ailment that can affect anyone, but understanding the causes and knowing how to treat them can provide relief and prevent complications. Whether caused by infections, earwax buildup or other factors, most earaches can be effectively managed with home remedies or medical treatment. Preventive measures can also play a key role in reducing the risk of earaches. If symptoms persist or worsen, seeking medical advice is essential to ensure proper care and treatment.

If you’re experiencing earaches and need professional advice, book an online consultation with our expert pharmacists today and get personalised care from the comfort of your home. Our team can guide effective treatments and preventive measures to alleviate your earache. Schedule your online consultation with Touchwood Pharmacy now and take the first step towards relief and better ear health.