Earache: Causes and Symptoms


Earache is often caused by inflammation or infection of parts of ear. Infection is generally bacterial though other forms of infection are also found.

Respiratory infection is one of the most common causes of ear infection. Germs (viruses or bacteria) first infect respiratory tract. The germs normally invade the ears through Eustachian tubes, which are small tubes which join our respiratory tract to our inner ear. This causes congestion of mucosa. Sneezing is often associated with transmission of these germs to throat, nose and eventually ears. Congested respiratory tract subjects eardrum to abnormal pressure which causes earache. If left untreated, such infections may spread leading to accumulation of liquid called serous otitis in the middle ear and outer ear.

Infection of outer ear (ear canal)  may be also be caused by eczema of the ear canal, or irritation due to wax or invasion by foreign bodies like dust particles, hair and moths or as a result of swimming in untreated water (pool and lakes). Boils or any other type of infection may also lead to discharge in external ear.

Other causes of earache include perforated eardrum, lesion of the ear and inflammation in head or neck.

In a few cases, infection of some other proximal organ projects pain in the ears. In such cases, a comprehensive ENT checkup is required to identify the origin.


Severe pain in ears, throbbing sensation and ringing in ears are the most common symptoms of ear infection.  Pain may also result in fever, impairment of hearing and headaches. Allied symptoms of ear infection include:

  • Discharge of fluid from ear
  • Accumulation of fluid in ear
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain or itching inside ears
  • Hearing problem