Understanding Ear Pain: Common Causes and the Importance of Seeing an ENT Specialist

man with ear pain

Ear pain, medically referred to as otalgia, is a common complaint among individuals of all ages. While occasional ear pain might be a minor annoyance, chronic or severe pain can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. In this article, we’ll delve into the most common causes of ear pain and discuss the importance of consulting an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist for chronic ear discomfort.

Common Causes of Ear Pain

Otitis Media:

This is an infection or inflammation of the middle ear and is one of the most common causes of ear pain, especially in children. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or even due to the common cold.

Otitis Externa (Swimmer’s Ear):

An infection of the outer ear canal, often caused by water trapped in the ear after swimming, leading to bacterial growth. It’s characterized by pain, redness, and sometimes discharge.

Earwax Buildup:

Excessive earwax can harden and block the ear canal, causing discomfort, hearing loss, and sometimes ringing in the ear (tinnitus).

Sinus Infection:

The interconnected nature of the ear, nose, and throat means that a sinus infection can lead to ear pain due to the buildup of pressure.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ):

The temporomandibular joint connects the jaw to the skull. Disorders or misalignment can cause referred pain to the ear.

Eardrum Rupture:

Caused by a variety of factors, including infections, loud noises, or poking the ear, a ruptured eardrum can lead to pain, hearing loss, and discharge.


Changes in air or water pressure, especially during flying or diving, can lead to pain and potential damage to the ear.

Why See an ENT Specialist for Chronic Ear Pain?


ENT specialists, or otolaryngologists, are trained to diagnose, treat, and manage diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, and throat. Their specialized knowledge ensures accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

Comprehensive Evaluation:

Chronic ear pain might be a symptom of an underlying condition. An ENT can perform a thorough examination, including hearing tests and imaging, to get to the root of the problem.

Advanced Treatment Options:

From medications to surgeries, ENT specialists are equipped with the tools and techniques to address a wide range of ear-related issues.

Preventing Complications:

Untreated ear conditions can lead to complications such as hearing loss, spread of infection, and more. Regular check-ups with an ENT can help in early detection and prevention.

Holistic Care:

Given the interconnectedness of the ear, nose, and throat, an ENT specialist can provide holistic care, addressing not just the ear pain but any related issues in the nasal passages or throat.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, while occasional ear pain might be due to minor issues like a change in altitude or water trapped in the ear, chronic or severe pain should never be ignored. An ENT specialist is best equipped to diagnose and treat the root causes of ear pain, ensuring the health and functionality of this vital sensory organ. If you or someone you know is experiencing persistent ear discomfort, it’s time to make an appointment with an otolaryngologist.

Lee A. Kleiman a doctor at Anne Arundel ENT

Dr. Lee A. Kleiman is a double board certified ENT & plastic surgeon at Anne Arundel ENT in Annapolis, Maryland known for his superior clinical outcomes in all Surgical and Non-Surgical ENT, specializing in Sinus Care, Voice and Swallowing, Rhinoplasty and Revision Rhinoplasty, and Facelifts and Non-surgical Aesthetic. He also continues to attend conferences internationally and nationally to keep abreast of the latest treatments and technology.