Swallowing Causes Ear Pain: Infections of the Throat and the Eustachian Tube and More
It's important to remember that there's no one "typical" case of ear pain. At its worst, the pain can last for hours. When you touch something, it may hurt, but not always.
Sometimes it only occurs when you're not using your ears, like when you're swallowing. Read on to find out the most common causes of ear pain during swallowing and how to treat them.
The most common cause of painful ears when trying to swallow is an ear infection. In most cases, bacteria or viruses infect the middle ear, leading to symptoms of ear pain and discomfort. They typically lead to painful swelling, fluid buildup, and irritation within the ear.
Although ear infections are more common in kids, anyone can get one. When you're an adult, you might experience a milder version of the symptoms you saw as a kid when you had an ear infection.
Earache in the middle of your ears
Acute otitis media, or simply middle ear infection, is by far the most common type of ear infection. The area just behind the eardrum is affected. That volume of air houses tiny bones with vibrating nerve endings that enable you to hear. The Eustachian tubes connect the middle ear to the throat.
The common cold, influenza, a sinus infection, or allergies are the typical triggers for ear infections. Fluid in the middle ear is normally drained through the Eustachian tubes. Eustachian tubes can become blocked when you have a cold. Accumulated fluid around the obstruction may become infected.
The Eustachian tubes help keep the middle ear at a constant pressure. Actions such as gulping, yawning, and sneezing pain from built-up pressure in an infected ear is alleviated when the tubes dilate.
The following are some of the symptoms that a young child may be experiencing an ear infection:
- Discomfort in the ears that worsens when lying down
- if other symptoms are present, you may notice a tugging or pulling sensation in your ear.
- abnormally high levels of sobbing
- Angrier than usual
- with a temperature in excess of 100 degrees
- lack of hunger
- fluid evacuation from the ear
- inability to maintain equilibrium
- trouble falling asleep
Symptoms of a middle ear infection in adults can include:
- moderate heat loss
- ear pain
- discharge of fluid from the ear
- difficultly hearing
Within a week, many cases of middle ear infections clear up on their own. Oral antibiotics have a small but real chance of helping some kids, but they're usually unnecessary, even in adults.
Outer ear infections, such as swimmer's ear, are classified as otitis externa. It's a distinct form of ear infection that manifests itself in the external auditory canal. Water can enter your ear canal during activities such as swimming and showering. This makes for a warm, damp environment, perfect for the growth of bacteria and fungi.
However, water is not always to blame when an outer ear infection occurs. A foreign object, like a finger, can also introduce bacteria into the ear canal. The protective lining of the inner ear is easily damaged by sharp objects like Q-tips and fingernails. Eczema and other skin conditions can increase susceptibility to these infections.
When the ear is being pulled or stretched, the pain from an outer ear infection can increase significantly. Chewing and swallowing can exacerbate the discomfort. Pain on one side of the face often spreads to the other.
These are some additional signs of an outer ear infection:
- Irritation and puffiness in the ear
- Internal ear itching
- a noxious-smelling feces
- feel of fullness in the ear
- difficulty hearing
After 7-10 days of treatment with antibiotic ear drops, this infection typically resolves itself. While you're healing, OTC pain relievers can help lessen the discomfort.
Ear infections are a common source of discomfort, but they may originate in other areas, like the nose or throat.
Since children's immune systems are still developing, even mild infections of the nose and throat can cause serious problems.
Towards the end of each child's nasal passage, behind the area of the Eustachian tubes, are small pads of immune tissue called adenoids. It's important to keep the adenoids healthy because they help the immune system of children. Typically, adnitic enlargement occurs during childhood, and most people see a decrease by early adulthood.
The function of the adenoids is to defend against bacteria and viruses that enter the body via the mouth and nose. When fighting off an infection, the adenoids can swell to the point where they obstruct the Eustachian tubes and cause a person to develop a middle ear infection.
Infected tonsils, also known as tonsillitis, are a common symptom of a throat infection. Tonsils are two soft, round pads of immune tissue located at the base of the tongue and at the back of the throat.
Although a sore throat is the most obvious sign of tonsillitis, this infection can also bring on:
- The inability to swallow comfortably
- the swelling and pain of lymph nodes in the neck
- tonsils that are swollen, red, or inflamed
- Plaques of white at the base of your throat
- nausea and vomiting Diarrhea and vomiting Pain in the stomach
- bad breath
- rough and distorted sounding speech
The majority of cases of tonsillitis are caused by a bacterial infection. Most cases of tonsillitis are caused by group A Streptococcus, the same bacteria that cause strep throat. Medications like penicillin have proven effective in treating tonsillitis.
Abscess around the tonsils (peritonsillar)
Pus accumulates around a tonsil, forming a peritonsillar abscess. Typically, it develops as a result of tonsillitis that has gone untreated. In many cases, the discomfort is much more severe than a typical sore throat. Typically, only one tonsil is inflamed, so the pain is localized to one side of the mouth.
In many cases, the ear on the side with a peritonsillar abscess is the one that is painful. It's possible that swallowing will cause excruciating pain. You may also experience discomfort when trying to open your mouth.
Sometimes, a minor operation is needed. A small incision is made or a needle is used to drain the pus from the abscess to treat it. To treat the tonsillitis and prevent the abscess from returning, your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics.
Pain in the back of the throat and the face are symptoms of eagle syndrome, a condition that is extremely uncommon. Pain in the throat is typically dull and constant, and it can spread to the ear. Every time you turn your head, the pain intensifies.
These and other symptoms may also occur:
- Problems swallowing
- discomfort in the chest or throat
- noisy in your ears
- neck pain
- distress in the face
When the ligaments and bones of the neck or skull are affected, a person develops eagle syndrome. The condition is usually treated via surgical intervention.
An acute pain in the glossopharynx
Another uncommon but excruciatingly painful condition is glossopharyngeal neuralgia (GPN). It's related to the glossopharyngeal nerve, which is located in the head and neck. Short, sharp pain episodes are typical of GPN and can be triggered by things like drinking cold liquids, swallowing, yawning, talking, coughing, or chewing. In most cases, the discomfort is localized to one ear, but it may also be felt on the opposite side of the head or in other locations such as the tongue, back of the throat, face, or under the jaw
The average duration of a GPN episode is two minutes, after which the patient experiences a period of dull aching. GPN is typically treated with neuropathic pain medications like pregabalin and gabapentin. Some people may benefit from surgery if they don't find relief from medications.
Symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder
If you suffer from temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), the joint you use to open and close your mouth may become painful. The articulation between the jaw bone and the skull.
When you talk, chew, or swallow, the small disks of cartilage that separate your jaw bones from your skull glide smoothly.
Because of how frequently you use this joint, any damage to it can cause severe discomfort. These symptoms are also commonly experienced by many people as ear pain.
Additional signs of a TMJ disorder include:
- Having difficulty fully opening your mouth
- muscle tension and jaw pain
- jaw clenching
- Sounds of grinding, clicking, or popping when opening the mouth
- The constant pain in my neck and head
- sounds constantly reverberating in one's ears
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can be harmed in many ways: through grinding teeth, through blunt force, and through chewing gum excessive Adjustments to one's way of life, bed rest, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), are the usual treatments.
It's possible for a number of factors to contribute to ear discomfort when chewing or swallowing. The cause is often an infection in the ear or throat. It's possible that both will get better within a week without any intervention, but medication may be necessary. Talk to your doctor if the discomfort persists to rule out more serious causes.
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