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Earache is a common complaint, especially in children. It is generally caused by an ear infection, but can also be caused by:

  • allergies or irritation
  • changes in air pressure, such as when you take off or land in a plane
  • an object in the ear
  • an injury
  • a build up of ear wax
  • loud noises
  • referred pain from a throat infection
  • problems with the jaw
  • dental problems, such as an abcess.

If the pain persists or gets worse, or if you feel sick or have a temperature, see your doctor.

Earache treatments

Some earaches go away on their own and do not need treatment. Simple painkillers like paracetamol can help.

You should see your doctor if:

  • the pain is persisting or is getting worse
  • you are feeling unwell with fevers
  • you have a discharge from your ears
  • it is a child under two who has the earache
  • you are worried and unsure what to do.

Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

Never try to remove something stuck in the ear yourself. Over the counter ear drops or olive oil drops should not be used if the ear drum has burst, and they will not help an ear infection.

Ways to ease the pain include:

  • holding a warm cloth or heat pack to your ear
  • covering your ears if cold weather or wind makes symptoms worse.

If you have a discharge, you can gently clean the outer ear with cotton wool. If there is discharge from both ears, use a new piece of cotton wool for each ear.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2017

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