While many consider earaches to be a childhood ailment, adult earache is actually more common than you might think. The throbbing pain, or sharp pain, may affect only one ear or it could affect both. Some adult earache symptoms are constant while others come and go. Some adults have difficulty hearing or feel like their ears are blocked with a lot of pressure.
Adult Earache Causes
There are many causes for adult earache including an infection in the outer or middle ear, ear injury, an injury to the jaw, and infection in the throat, sinuses, or the mouth. Sometimes, when flying individuals have an adult earache due to the change in air pressure. A rapid change in temperature, like from being inside and then walking out into the cold, can cause ears to ache, too. Sometimes too much earwax can be painful while individuals who have a growth, object, or even a bug in their ear may have an adult earache.
An adult earache could be due to a middle ear infection, which is also quite common in kids. Generally, a middle ear infection results from an infection that started in the throat, sinuses, or just a cold. Symptoms may include dizziness, fever, nasal discharge, hearing loss, loss of appetite, and the like.
Outer ear and ear canal infections might result from moisture being trapped in the ear. This is common with swimmer’s ear. Generally, you have an outer ear infection if you wiggle your ear and feel pain. Symptoms may include itching, swelling, and redness. Some people have temporary hearing loss or a feeling of fullness in their ear.
Treatment for adult earache depends on the cause of the earache. Some may be treated with an antibiotic if the cause is a bacterial infection. Some doctors will wait up to three days before prescribing an antibiotic to see if the symptoms resolve on their own to avoid bacterial resistance. Most doctors will initially recommend a decongestant and a pain reliever. When an object is lodged in the ear, or excessive ear wax, the doctor should be the one to remove it.
Other adult earache causes, like flying, can be resolved by chewing gum, sucking on candy, or drinking something. Also, some earaches respond well to a cold wet cloth or cold pack being placed on the ear for up to 20 minutes. A hot water bottle can also be used to help bring on relief for an adult earache.