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Ear Pain (Otalgia)

Otalgia or ear pain may be referred to as a primary with the source being the ear or it may be called as secondary – which is referred to the ear with or without signs or symptoms of the primary source of the pain. In about 50% or more patients who complain otalgia, the pain emanates from a source other than the ear.

The Primary Causes of Ear Pain

  • Otitis externa (bacterial or fungal infections)
  • Myringitis (Tympanic membrane infection)
  • Wax impaction
  • Foreign body in the ear canal
  • Perichondritis or chondritis of the auricle (Pinna Infection )
  • Carbuncle or furuncle (Boil)
  • Frostbite or burn of pinna
  • Trauma to the external canal
  • Traumatic perforation of the tympanic membrane
  • Herpes simplex virus infection
  • Herpes zoster oticus
  • Eustachian tube dysfunction
  • Eustachian tube obstruction
  • Otitis media and mastoiditis, which may be complicated
  • Venous sinus thrombosis
  • Brain abscess
  • External canal, middle ear, or skull base neoplasms including metastatic disease

Causes of Referred Pain in the Ear

Orofacial region

  • Temporomandibular joint disorder
  • Exposed tooth root surfaces
  • Periodontal infection (superficial or deep)
  • Unerupted or impacted teeth
  • Traumatic occlusion
  • Ill-fitting dental appliance
  • The recent adjustment of archwires (orthodontic therapy)
  • Primary or recurrent herpes simplex virus infection
  • Acute herpes zoster
  • Mucocutaneous disorders (i.e., lichen planus)
  • Geographic tongue
  • Burning mouth or burning tongue
  • Sinusitis
  • Nasal infections
  • Parotid gland infection

The Pharynx

  • An inflammatory disorder involving the hypo-oro-nasopharynx
  • Tonsillitis and peritonsillar abscess
  • Post-tonsillectomy pain
  • Eagle syndrome

The Larynx and oesophagus

  • Laryngitis
  • Perichondritis or chondritis
  • Arthritis of cricoarytenoid joint
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Infection or foreign body in esophagus

Other sources

  • Traction or inflammation involving cerebrovascular blood supply (carotidynia)
  • Thyroiditis
  • Angina

Neurologic Disorders

  • Continuous neuropathic pain
  • Episodic neuropathic (neuralgic) pain
    – Trigeminal neuralgia
    – Glossopharyngeal neuralgia
    – Nervus intermedius (geniculate) neuralgia
    – Occipital neuralgia
    – Vagal and superior laryngeal neuralgia


  • Primary headaches
    – Tension-type headache now including cervical myalgia
    – Chronic paroxysmal hemicranias
    – Giant cell arteritis (Temporal arteritis)
  • Secondary headaches
    Headache or facial pain attributed to disorders of the cranium,
    neck, eyes, ears, nose, sinuses, teeth, mouth, or
    other facial or cranial structures

Neoplastic Disease

  • Carcinoma, sarcomas (including Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas), and metastatic disease

Due to a wide and vast range of causes of ear pain, patients should not treat ear pain themselves at home. Kindly see your ENT doctor to find the real cause of your ear pain. Accurate diagnosis of your ear pain helps in knowing the cause and providing apt treatment (targeted treatment aiming at relieving pain).

Happy Patients


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  • Dr. Neetu really cares for her patients & this clearly shows. My experience with her has been very good. She is very patient, clearly explains the treatment & answers any queries regarding it. Thank you for the services.

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  • Dr Neetu Modgil was excellent. Thorough, kind and patient, she did an excellent job. I will be requesting her services for my next appointment.

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  • Visited for Ear wax. Explained well to me. removed my ear wax very well. Dr. is Very friendly with me.

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  • She listen to my problem very attentively and prescribed medicine to take care of my problem. Besides being a good doctor she’s a wonderful human being too.

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  • I went for throat infection and clicking sound. She was very patient to hear my issue. Then did her examination and explained me the issue. She don't writes unnecessary tests and give minimum and required medication. I wish to have...

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  • she is a friendly doctor and explained the disease very well. She had helped me out in my difficult times. Am very thankful yo her. Would like to recommend her to others.

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  • I am obliged for everything doctor has done for me from day one. I am absolutely fine three months post surgery. I had many doubts before surgery but now as I m going well , I am happy and content.


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