SandsClinic

Earache is a common problem, particularly in children. It can be worrying, but it is usually caused by a minor infection and will often get better in a few days without treatment. This page has information on common causes of earache.

Presentation

Earache can be a sharp, dull, or burning pain in the ear that comes and goes or is constant. You may get pain in just one or both ears.

Common causes of earache 

Ear infections 

If an ear infection is causing your earache, there may be a watery or pus-like fluid coming out of your ear.

Common causes of earache include:

Outer ear infections (infections of the tube connecting the outer ear and eardrum)

Middle ear infections (infections of the parts of the ear behind the eardrum) are common causes of earache.

Ear infections often clear up on their own without treatment after a few days or weeks.

Many infections in the middle ear are viral and would not improve with antibiotic treatment.

Many outer ear symptoms can be caused by non-infectious conditions such as dermatitis. In some cases, depending on the cause, your doctor may prescribe eardrops or antibiotics.

Ear damage 

Earache can sometimes be caused by an injury to the inside of the ear for example, by:

Scraping earwax from the ear canal using a cotton bud.

Poking a cotton bud too far into your ear, which can puncture the eardrum.

The ear canal is sensitive and can be easily damaged. The ear should heal on its own without treatment. It can take up to two months for a perforated eardrum to heal.

If you have a perforated eardrum, you should not use eardrops.