Ear Pain (Otalgia)
Why Does Your Ear Hurt?
Is your child getting repeat ear infections? Do you suffer from earaches? We understand ear pain can cause sleepless nights and an uncomfortable sensation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We believe one of the first steps in finding long-lasting ear pain relief is understanding your pain, how your ears work, and what’s causing the pain in the first place.
How Your Ears Work
Your ears are complex, delicate organs of hearing and balance. The anatomy of the ear consists of three parts – the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Let’s start on the outside.
Shoulder pain occurs when one or more parts of your shoulder are inflamed or injured.
The outer ear consists of what you can see – the outside part of the ear is called the pinna, or auricle. You can also see the external auditory canal, or tube. The pinna collects sound waves and channels them into the auditory canal. The soundwaves then travel to the end of the canal where they cause your eardrum, or tympanic membrane, to vibrate.
The middle ear, or tympanic cavity, is on the other side of the eardrum. The middle ear houses the smallest bones in your body – the ossicles, as well as your Eustachian tubes.
The ossicles work together to amplify the sound waves, and include:
The Eustachian tube for each ear links the ear with the back of your nose. It’s lined with mucus, just like your nose, and helps to equalize air pressure between the outside and your middle ear.
Your inner ear consists of 3 main parts:
- Cochlea contains the nerves for hearing.
- Vestibule contains receptors for balance.
- Semicircular canals contain receptors for balance.
Ear pain results from a problem with one or more of these areas of the ear. An earache or ear infection is a sign something is wrong. If you or your child is suffering from ear pain, you should see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Common Causes of Ear Pain
There is a wide variety of common causes of ear pain – and some of the causes don’t originate with the ear at all! Common causes include:
- Middle ear infection
- Swimmer’s ear
- Sinus infection
- Ear wax buildup
- Trauma to the ear
- Foreign object in the ear
- Wisdom teeth
Finding the root cause of you or your child’s ear pain starts with a full assessment of the ear pain symptoms and associated symptoms.
Ear Pain Symptoms
Ear pain symptoms in a young child, teen, or adult are assessed partly through talking with you about the symptoms you or your child are experiencing. With infants, we have to go by how the child is acting and your observations.
Common ear pain symptoms include:
- Sharp ear pain
- Dull ear pain
- Buring pain
- One or both ears involved
- Loss of hearing/muffled sounds
- Ongoing ear pain or acute (sudden onset) pain
- Ringing in the ears
- Pain in ears when chewing
- Ear pain when swallowing
- Pain behind the ear
- Ear discharge
- Fussiness in a baby when lying down
- Different sound in your baby’s cry at night
- Tugging at the ear
While an ear infection is the most common cause of ear pain, not all ear pain is due to an infection. Your doctor will assess the symptoms, onset, and ask you to answer some lifestyle questions to find the cause and develop a plan of treatment.
Ear Pain FAQs
Q: Who gets ear infections?
A: Anyone can get an ear infection, but they are most common in babies and young children. In fact, more than 80% of children will get at least one ear infection, also known as otitis media.
Q: Doesn’t my child need antibiotics for an ear infection?
A: Not necessarily. Current guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend no immediate antibiotics for non-severe acute otitis media (AOM), and only recommend antibiotics if the child’s condition worsens or doesn’t improve. We will never prescribe antibiotics, but we can help relieve the pain from an ear infection.
Q: What is swimmer’s ear?
A: Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal. The medical name is otitis externa. It’s caused by water that remains in your ear after swimming, diving, or other activities.
Q: Does TMJ cause ear pain?
Q: Can wisdom teeth cause ear pain?
A: Yes. Much like how TMJ can cause ear pain, erupting wisdom teeth can cause ear pain. It’s a referred pain from the jaw. Your dentist can help you decide what to do about your wisdom teeth.
Q: Can allergies cause ear pain:
A: Yes. Because your nose, sinuses, and throat all connect to your ears, your allergies can cause inflammation of your Eustachian tubes, resulting in pain, fluid buildup, and a possible infection if the fluid doesn’t drain.
Q: Can a sinus infection cause ear pain?
A: Yes. A sinus infection (sinusitis) can result in fluid being trapped in the ear, causing an infection. Sinusitis can also simply result in feeling a fullness in the ears without causing an infection.
Q: Can strep throat cause ear pain?
A: Yes. In some cases, the bacteria that causes strep throat can make its way into your Eustachian tubes and inner ear, causing an infection.
Q: How do you relieve ear paIn?
A: Before we can relieve ear pain, we need to determine the root cause. Learn more about that below.
How Cima Health Can Help
Cima Health provides restorative, lifelong solutions that target the root cause of your or your child’s ear pain. Your care will start out with a comprehensive evaluation to assess the pain. We will also ask questions about your health history, home life, lifestyle, and habits before making recommendations for an integrative plan of care. Together, we come up with conservative and alternative treatments that can help you and your child live a healthy life.
Treating and preventing ear pain involves several treatment modalities, all of which you or your child can receive in one location. They include:
Our functional medicine providers can order a battery of blood tests that can test for the root cause of ear infections. Test results can show infections, immune deficiencies, allergies, nutrient deficiencies, and more. Based on the results, we might recommend natural medicine alternatives to antibiotics such as homeopathic and naturopathic ear drops, vitamins, etc., based on the age of the patient.
Can a Chiropractor help with ear pain?
Yes, and we’re glad you asked. Regular chiropractic care keeps your head, spine, and pelvis aligned and helps your body heal itself. An adjustment specifically for ear pain caused by an ear infection can help relieve the pain. And chiropractic treatment for your TMJ will relieve the associated ear pain as well.
Our Palm Beach Gardens chiropractors who treat adults include:
Dr. Natalie is our doctor who specializes in pediatric care of infants and children, along with helping expectant moms and other adult patients. Chiropractic adjustments for children can help ward off ear infections by improving drainage in the ears. Dr. Natalie also does ear irrigation treatments to remove excess ear wax and foreign objects from your child’s ear, as needed.
Physical Therapy (PT)
While most ear pain is caused by ear infections or TMJ, which our chiropractors can help with, you might need to have physical therapy for inner ear trauma and help with regaining balance. Sometimes after a fall with a head injury or head trauma during a car accident, the inner ear suffers damage. Your physical therapist will work with you to help restore your balance and movement. They will also provide treatments to help decrease or eliminate dizziness and maintain clear vision when you move your head.
Depending on the cause of your ear pain or your child’s ear pain, the doctors at Cima Health may make some recommendations for lifestyle changes. These can include:
- Adults should stop smoking.
- Keep your baby and children away from second hand smoke.
- Breastfeed your baby for at least the first 6 months, if possible, to increase your baby’s immunity and reduce the risk of ear infections.
- If bottle feeding, keep your baby’s head upright to keep formula from flowing to the middle ear.
- Don’t allow your baby to have a bottle in the crib, for the same reason.
- Limit the use of pacifiers. Studies show they are linked to an increased risk of ear infections.
- Adults and children should avoid triggering allergens. (Dust, dust mites, pet dander, pollen, food allergies)
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Use supplements as recommended by your doctor to boost immunity.
By making some lifestyle changes and getting regular adjustments, you can help prevent ear infections and deal with ear pain quickly.
Read What Our Patients Have to Say
“My daughter, Avery got her first ear infection when she was 4 months old. By the time she was 1, she had over 15 ear infections! Many of them were double ear infections!”
“We were constantly at the doctor and eventually were sent to an ENT. In September of 2013, when Avery was 15 months old, she had tubes placed in her ears and her adenoids removed. The procedure proved to be effective until March of 2014. That March I took her to the pediatrician because I was not sure why she was acting so fussy. Turns out that the tube in her right ear was starting to come out and was no longer functioning. She received antibiotics and the infection went away.”
“However, within another week she had another ear infection. At that point, our pediatrician referred us back to the ENT based on Avery’s history with ear infections. A good friend of mine recommended that I visit Dr. Natalie at Cima Health and wellness! I am so glad we did! We decided to give regular chiropractic visits a shot instead of putting more tubes in her ears.”
“Avery has only had one ear infection in the past 10 months and she never received new tubes! I truly believe that we would have had to have the tubes redone if it wasn’t for Dr. Natalie’s expertise! We just learned that Avery’s other tube is no longer functioning and I am not worried one bit, now that I have Dr. Natalie to help! Thanks, Dr. Natalie! We love you!”
Book an Appointment
Ear pain can make it hard to sleep and hard to hear. It’s especially traumatic if your baby has frequent ear infections. If you’re looking for a conservative treatment for ear pain and preventive treatments, book an appointment today. One of our chiropractors will do a comprehensive examination to get to the root cause of the problem and develop an integrative plan of care to relieve your pain or your child’s pain and inspire you to achieve whole-body wellness.