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.

Outer ear infections (infectionsof the tube connecting the outer ear and eardrum) and middle ear infections (infections of theparts of the ear behind the eardrum) are very common causes of earache.

Ear infections often clear up on their own without treatment after a few days or weeks, but in some cases your GPmay prescribe eardrops or antibiotics .

The condition tends to bepainless, but sometimes the pressure created by the fluid can cause earache.

Glue ear often clears up on its own, but it can take a few months. If the problem is particularly persistent,a minor procedure to place small tubes called grommets in the ear may be recommended to help drain the fluid.

The ear should heal on its own without treatment, but it can take up to two months for a perforated eardrum to heal.

If you have a perforated eardrum, you shouldn't use eardrops.


Abuild-up of earwax can sometimes cause earache.

If you have a build-up of earwax in your ear, your pharmacist will be able to recommend eardrops to softenit so it falls out naturally.

In some cases, your GP mayneed to remove the wax (once softened with eardrops) by flushing the ear with water. This is known as ear irrigation .

An object in the ear

Ifthere's something in your or your child's ear that's causing pain, don't try to remove it yourself because you may push it further inside, which could damage the eardrum.

Contact your GP or local out-of-hours service .Your GP may need to refer you or your childto a specialist to have it removed.

Throat infections

If you find it painful to swallow and you have a sore throat , your earache could be a symptom of a throat infection, such as:

  • tonsillitis inflammation of the tonsils that's usually caused by a viral infection
  • quinsy an abscess on one side of the back of your throat, which can sometimes make it very difficult to swallow even fluids

Tonsillitis sometimes clears upafter a few days without the need for antibiotics .

If you have quinsy, you'll need to see your GP as soon as possible for treatment. You may have quinsy if you have a sore throat that gets worse very quickly.

Jaw problem

Earache can becaused by aproblem with the joint of your jaw bone (where the jaw meets the skull).

This is known as temporomandibular joint pain and can occur as a result of problems such as arthritis or teeth grinding .

Jaw pain can often be relieved with painkillers, warm or cold compresses, and trying not to clench your jaw and grind your teeth.

Dental abscess

A dental abscess isa collection of pus that can form in your teeth or gums as a result of a bacterial infection. The main symptom is pain in the affected tooth, which can be intense and throbbing. Sometimes, the pain can spread to your ear.

Make a dental appointment as soon as possible if you think you have a dental abscess. Your dentist will need to remove the source of the infection and drain the pus from the abscess.


Find a dentist near you .

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018