Ear Pain Fact Sheet


Ear pain mostly occurs in children, but it can also happen to adults. Ear pain can be burning, sharp, or dull, and can affect one or both ears. Depending on the cause, it can be constant or come and go. This pain can result in temporary hearing loss and may include a fever. At Head Pain Institute, we treat ear pain related to TMJ disorders.   Regardless, it is important to get any type of ear pain treated.  Let’s begin with the main causes of ear pain.

Ear Infections

Ear infections are the most common causes of ear pain. They can occur in the inner, middle, or outer ear. Infections in the inner ear are often caused by bacterial or viral infections from respiratory diseases. Middle ear infections result from infections from respiratory tract infections, while those in the outer ear are primarily caused by swimming, by putting fingers or cotton swabs in the ear canal, wearing headphones or hearing aids that damage the skin in the ear canal. 


The ear constantly makes and eliminates wax. If this process doesn’t work properly, it results in gunk buildup, which can sometimes cause pain. In medical terms, this is known as impacted wax. 

Air Pressure

Your ears keep the pressure equal on both sides of the eardrums. Sudden changes in air pressure, such as when you are on an elevator or plane, could lead to ear pain.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) Disorders

50% of people suffering from temporomandibular joint disorders experience ear pain without any signs of infection.  By treating the underlying cause of the TMJ disorder, typically the ear pain will be eliminated.

Other causes of ear pain include:

  • Strep throat
  • Sinus infection
  • Arthritis of the jaw
  • Tooth infection
  • Eczema inside the ear canal
  • Perforated eardrum
  • Water or shampoo trapped in the ear
  • Foreign object in the ear

Do Ear Pain Home Treatment Methods Work?

People use different methods to alleviate ear pain. They include:

  • Using over-the-counter ear drops
  • Using over-the-counter painkillers
  • Soaking a washcloth in warm or cold water, wringing it out, and placing it over the painful ear.
  • Sitting upright to help the fluid causing the irritation to drain out

Even though these methods might work depending on the cause of your pain, we recommend that you see a doctor before trying them. A thorough diagnosis is typically required to determine the actual cause of ear pain. A provider can then advise on the best course of treatment. 

If you are concerned about ear pain related to temporomandibular joint disorders, contact us today. You can email us at info@headpaininstitute.com or call 480-351-6513.