Pain in or behind the ears is often very painful. The pain can range from mild to severe and can be a dull ache or sharp spasms. Many illnesses and conditions can lead to ear pain. Often when someone has pain in or behind their ear they reach for pain medications to rid themselves of the pain. However, this can be a dangerous thing to do. Any ear pain can be a potential major problem and should be brought to your doctor’s attention immediately. Self-treating ear pain can lead to dangerous complications.
Besides the pain in or behind the ear, the patient may have a fever. When fever is present with ear pain, it is a sign to get the doctor right away. Ear infections left untreated can spread throughout the body, especially to the brain which is so close to the ear. General irritability and fussiness are also symptoms people experience when they have ear pain.
Causes Of Pain Behind The Ear
- Blocked Eustachian Tubes: Many times the Eustachian tubes will become blocked when you have a sinus infection, cold, or allergies. This causes pressure changes within the ear. At the same time, fluid tends to pool in the middle ear. Together, this fluid and pressure cause ear pain.
- Ceruminosis: Basically this is just a buildup of wax in the ear canal. Sometimes the glands just produce too much wax. Excess earwax can make hearing sound muffled, and it can cause ear pain.
- Otitis Media: This is the fancy name for an infection in the middle ear. It is the most common reason for pain in or behind the ear. Viruses and bacteria often cause middle ear infections. Infections in the auditory canal, the outer ear, or even on the skin around the ear can cause ear pains.
- Mastoiditis: This infection of the mastoid bone is usually a complication of having chronic middle ear infections. The mastoid bone is located right behind the ear and can become really painful.
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ): The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jawbone and the temporal bone. Problems in this joint are common. Pain is most often felt in front of the ear, but can radiate behind the ear, down the cheek, to the temple, and into the ear.
- Otitis Externa: More commonly known as swimmer’s ear, this infection involves the ear canal and the outer part of the ear. Any time you swim with a cut or tear in your ear, you risk getting an infection. Pathogens enter through this torn skin and cause pain, itching and a nasty discharge.
- Problems With The Eardrum: Excessive fluid buildups behind the eardrum can lead to a ruptured eardrum. This causes extreme pain. Most often a ruptured eardrum will heal without treatment. However, there are times when the ruptured eardrum will need to be surgically repaired.
- Cervicogenic Headache: A headache caused by pain radiating from the base of your neck clear up to your head. Stress on the joints in the neck (often from poor posture), or moving the neck the wrong way, can lead to major problems with the joints, ligaments, nerves and muscles in the neck. This causes a lot of pain in and around the ear. Whiplash is an example of an injury that causes pain in the neck, head and ears.