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The ear is a complicated part of the body as small though it is, it is divided into different parts that are susceptible to different types of infections and trauma all requiring different treatment.

When a patient complains of pain in the ear over a prolonged period of time, the cause should be investigated as soon as possible. Apart from the local cause of the ear pain itself, a look into the systemic health of the patient is warranted as well. This will help rule out any predisposition to infection caused by compromised immunity, as is seen in diseases such as diabetes.

Possible causes of pain

Ear pain is most commonly seen either in the external ear (this includes the visible part as well as the passage of the ear up to the ear drum) or in the middle ear (also called the chamber of the ear, connected to the throat, nose, and sinuses via the Eustachian tube).

Pain in the external ear is easier to detect as well as treat. The pain might be caused by an external injury which is aggravated every time pressure is applied to the ear. It could also be due to a boil, furuncle, an insect bite or even a viral infection.

More often than not such infections of the external ear are not too severe and do not last for a prolonged period of time.

Pain in the middle ear is caused by fluid accumulation and subsequent increased pressure. This could be caused by an upper respiratory infection that has spread to the middle ear.

The chemicals used to clean swimming polls can lead to an infection of the ear's skin.

Differentiating the pain

There are steps you can undertake to find out what might be causing your ear pain.

Your pain might originate from the external ear if it hurts when you move or press on the ear, or when you move your jaw.

If swallowing or sudden jerky movements of the head cause you any air pain, the cause is likely to be related to the middle ear.

These are, of course, only pointers towards the possible causes and not a confirmed diagnosis.


Once the diagnosis has been confirmed by the doctor, you might be prescribed antibiotics, pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs and removal of infected ear wax might be required.

In some cases, the infection will turn out to be resistant to certain antibiotics and your doctor will have to decide on a new treatment plan.

Nasal decongestants are of use too in the treatment of middle ear infections.

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