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. There are some things that hurt only when touched. Sometimes it only occurs when you're not using your ears, like when you're swallowing. Read on to find out the most common

It's important to remember that there's no one "typical" case of ear pain. At its worst, the pain can last for hours. There are some things that hurt only when touched.

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. Typically, bacteria or viruses infect the middle ear, which leads to symptoms of an ear infection. 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 flu/cold" target="_blank">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:

  • aggravated ear discomfort 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
  • heat index over 100 degrees
  • lack of hunger
  • fluid evacuation from the ear
  • inability to maintain equilibrium
  • trouble falling asleep
  • headache

Symptoms of a middle ear infection in adults can include:

  • moderate heat loss
  • ear pain
  • discharge of fluid from the ear
  • difficultly hearing

Commonly, a week is all it takes for a middle ear infection to clear up on its own. Oral antibiotics may help some kids, but they're usually not necessary (especially in adults)

Otitis aquatica

One form of otitis externa, or "outer ear infection," is commonly known as "swimmer's ear." 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 inner ear's protective membrane is easily damaged by 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:

  • signs of infection, including ear redness and swelling
  • 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 the infection may have originated in the nose or throat instead.

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 small pads of immune tissue located at the base of the tongue.

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
  • fever
  • headache
  • nausea and vomiting Diarrhea and vomiting Pain in the stomach
  • rash
  • 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.

If you have a peritonsillar abscess, you probably know how painful it can be when it spreads to your ear. 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. The abscess is drained by an incision or a needle, depending on the severity of the condition. 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. Changing your head position aggravates the pain.

These and other symptoms may also occur:

  • difficulty swallowing
  • a sensation of something being caught in one's 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). The glossopharyngeal nerve, located in the head and neck, is involved. 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
  • loud ringing in the 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. Most of the time, an ear or throat infection is to blame. Even though both of these conditions might get better in a week without any intervention, you should consider getting a prescription for medication. If the pain persists, you should see a doctor to rule out more serious causes.

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