7 ways to reduce ear pain for relief

Ear pain, in children or adults, can stem various causes. Learn how to reduce ear pain with these expert-recommended tips!

Published: 2 Jun 2024, 20:37 pm IST

Ear pain, medically known as otalgia, can be be a common complaint by children. But it may also happen to adults. It may be due to an ear infection or even a cold and flu.In some cases, the pain can subside on its own and does not need medical attention. However, there are some remedies to reduce ear pain.

What causes ear pain?

Ear pain can stem from various causes, but these may be different between pediatric and adult cases. Some of the common causes of ear pain, according to ENT specialist Dr Debashish Datta Majumder, include:

โ€ข Sinusitis and upper respiratory tract infections, often accompanying colds, coughs, and fever
โ€ข Otitis externa or inflammation/infection of the external auditory canal (EAC)
โ€ข Perforation of the tympanic membrane causing chronic suppurative otitis media
โ€ข Malignant otitis externa in chronic diabetes cases
โ€ข Oral and Maxillofacial conditions such as jaw arthritis, TMJ syndrome, or tooth infection.

While issues like upper respiratory infections and sinusitis may induce ear ache in both pediatric and adult age groups, Otitis externa is frequently noticed in children, specifically those who are used to swimming often. Hence, it is also called Swimmerโ€™s Ear. Swimming in water without optimum hygiene and water treatment, or water retention in the ear due to swimming, creates a moist environment in the ear that favours microbial growth which may result in bacterial or fungal infections (candida infections) of the inner ear, explains the expert.

Learn ways to reduce ear pain. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

In adults, ear pain may stem from chronic recurrent ear infections since childhood or a remnant of a previous ear infection resulting in chronic suppurative otitis media. Underlying health conditions such as chronic or uncontrolled diabetes may contribute to ear pain as these individuals are at higher risk of malignant otitis externa, a severe infection of the temporal bone causing intense pain and purulent discharge. Despite its name, it is not cancerous but necessitates immediate surgical attention due to its rapid spread and potential for bony destruction behind the ear.

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How to reduce ear pain?

You can find relief from ear pain with some simple remedies. However, the root cause of your issue will decide the course of treatment, so you might want to seek medical advice first!

1. Over-the-counter pain relievers

Some of the over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be used to alleviate pain linked with a painful type of ear infection known as acute otitis media (AOM). These can be used safely with or without antibiotics, but make it a point to follow the dosing introductions as closely as possible as given on the label. These medications can also aid in reducing fever, which may be a root cause of the ear pain.

2. Ice packs or warm compresses

People often rely on ice packs or warm compresses, like a heating pad or damp washcloth, to find relief from the general pain. The same method can be followed for ear pain. This method has no side effects and can be used by children and adults both.

Put the ice pack and compress over the ear and alternatively switch between warm and cold post 10 minutes. If your preference is either warm or cold, then you can use just one compress.

3. Olive oil

Olive oil boosts some anti-bacterial properties, though proven scientific evidence that putting drops of olive oil in your ear canal can curb pain is limited. That being said, putting a few drops of warm olive oil in your ear is considered safe and maybe worth trying. Before you go ahead trying this, make sure that you seek medical advice on the same, especially for children. The temperature of the olive oil should not exceed your body temperature to avoid burning the eardrum.

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how to reduce ear pain
Putting drops of warm olive oil in your ear is considered safe and is worth trying. Image courtesy: Pexels

4. Chiropractic treatment

Just like chiropractic treatment can remedy your back pain, in the same ways, you might be surprised to notice that it might even soothe your earache. Though there is less evidence to support the effectiveness of this, there is one 2011 study that suggests that it might work. The effectiveness of this treatment relies on the cause of your pain, so it would be a great idea to see a doctor for a diagnosis.

5. Do not put pressure on your ear while sleeping

Some sleep positions can worsen your ear pain, while some positions can help alleviate it. Sleep by having your affected ear raised instead of making it face down towards the pillow. This might aid the ear drain in a better way if needed.
You can also sleep by keeping your head elevated using some extra pillows.

6. Ginger

Ginger is known to have anti-inflammatory properties that can aid in soothing ear pain. You can use this method by applying ginger juice or strained oil that was heated with ginger in it around the outer ear canal. Never put the oil directly in your ear.

7. Garlic

Garlic boosts both antibiotic and pain-relieving properties. You can follow this method by soaking crushed garlic for quite a few minutes in warm olive oil or sesame oil. Strain the garlic from the mix, and apply the oil to your ear canal.

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