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Intense ear pain is usually something entirely different from, say, an itchy ear canal. You can have a pain in the ear that feels like your head is about to explode, and nothing you put in your ear will help. In fact, anything you put in your ear usually make it worse. Here's why (and what you can do that actually works).

The auditory canal that starts on the outside of your ear leads to the tympanic membrane, the eardrum, which vibrates to pick up sound. Your ear drum stretches across the entire space of your middle ear. The infections that are causing you pain are on the other side of the eardrum. You can reach the eardrum, but you can't reach the infection by pouring things in your eardrum. However, that side of your ear is connected to your mouth and nose. 

That doesn't mean you need to stick something up your nose to make your ear feel better. However, things you chew release compounds in your saliva that can get all the way up to your inner ear. What kinds of things can your chew to make your ears feel better?

One of the best simple remedies for earache is sugar-free chewing gum. You do not have to do anything special with the chewing gum. Just chew it normally (and when you're done, dispose of it in a sanitary way and chew another piece). The way sugar-free chewing gum affects your ear is by a natural sugar substitute called xylitol. The xylitol activates your immune system in the same way that "ear germs" do. Chewing it in your mouth ensures that more immune cells are activated in more places in your head, and they in turn attack the infection. Two brands of sugar-free gum that contain the xylitol that helps kill germs are Trident and Spry.

Similarly, anything with clove oil in it will relieve pain in your ear. It's best to mix the clove oil with your saliva so that tiny splashes of saliva find their way to your ears. You don't have to do anything gross to get clove oil to your inner ear. Just suck on a clove-flavored hard candy, taking care not to chew up the candy. The idea is to mix as much of the candy as possible with as much of your saliva as possible so that some of the clove oil reaches you inner ear. It has to be clove candy, not peppermint.

Something else that may help with ear pain that most people don't try is Benadryl (diphenhydramine). It can make you sleepy, but it also relieves allergic inflammation. Even if you don't have just an allergy in your ear, you can have at least an allergy in your ear, and Benadryl will give you partial relief. 

Holding a warm (not hot) moist (not soppy) clean cloth over your ear usually brings some relief from pain. It's important not to burn your ear. I9t's a really, really bad idea to pour hot water into your ear.) However, keeping a moist cloth over your ear, warming it up occasionally without making it dripping wet, distracts your brain from your ear pain so you don't feel it as much. The moisture in the cloth distributes heat evenly over the outside of your ear and maximizes the sensation of relief. 

It can also help simply to swallow from time to time. You don't have to drink so much fluid that you start to slosh. You can do a dry swallow if you like. Swallowing equalizes pressure inside and outside your ear, usually reducing the pressure inside your ear that causes you pain.


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