The pair of ears in the human system are pivotal sensory organs responsible for the ability to hear numerous sounds, distinguish between voices and also preserve balance in the body. Hearing loss is mostly associated with old age and decline in otic functions, continuous exposure to noisy surroundings in young and middle-aged adults, or severe infections, adhesive otitis in children and may not develop frequently. However, ear pain is a common condition affecting people of all ages.
In some cases, ear pain actually does not imply any grave underlying health anomaly. It could arise from wearing very tight or ill-fitting headgear like caps, hats, helmets, earphones, hairbands, a solid object being trapped in the ear, sleeping at odd positions or hard floors and even from grinding the teeth often or with much force. Since these situations are temporary, the aching in the ear subsides once the trigger factor is removed or altered.
Nevertheless, in many circumstances, ear pain occurs even in the absence of these hampering factors, which can be due to ear infections in the outer, middle or inner ear, or other issues. At times, the pain in the ears is intense and requires prompt medical care for restoring optimal hearing capabilities in the affected individual. Hence, it is important to understand the varied possibilities that induce ear pain in children and adults, to ensure proper treatment by a healthcare professional and rectify hearing defects.
5 Major Health Anomalies That Trigger Ear Aches:
Ear wax, medically termed cerumen, is a natural substance synthesized by the otic cells, to protect the ears as well as maintain an ideal moist environment in the ear canal. This organic component possesses antimicrobial traits to shield ears from infectious pathogens like bacteria, viruses, fungi, besides lubricating the surface of the ears. While under normal conditions it is removed from the ears, in instances of infections or ailments, ear wax builds up in the canal, increasing pressure and obstructing the passage of sound waves. This impedes hearing and invariably triggers ear pain.
The sinuses are cavities present in four pairs in the foreheads, nose, eye and cheek region, which perform the vital function of ridding excess mucus from the nasal passages and keeping the interior of the nostrils clear for easy breathing and averting infections. Yet, in some cases, the sinuses which are usually filled with air for smooth flow of gases and respiration, get accumulated with fluid secretions due to a cold, viral fever, throat infection, sinusitis i.e. inflammation of sinuses or allergy. Since the sinus tubules lead up to the back of the eardrum, a sinus infection results in surplus fluid being trapped in the ears and leading to pain and discomfort.
Cavities In Teeth
Cavities, also called dental caries, are the most frequently occurring oral problem in individuals of all age groups, which are damaged regions in the hardened tooth surface that eventually form holes or gaps. They arise due to poor oral hygiene, consuming sugary foods that stick on to the teeth, bacterial growth, initially appearing as small holes that grow larger and wider if left untreated. While this triggers tooth pain, the nerves in the vicinity also encounter discomfort and since these neural tubes traverse across the face and behind the neck, deep cavities in teeth prompt severe ear pain as well in the nerve endings in the hearing organelles.
Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is situated at the point where the jaws adjoin the ears. Any damage to the joint, or swelling and inflammation in the connective tissues in the TMJ prompts substantial pain in the facial region and jaws. Since the auditory canal lies nearby the TMJ, temporomandibular joint syndrome invariably triggers discomfort in the ear, along with a ringing sensation known as tinnitus. TMJ occurs as a result of frequently clenching the jaws in irregular positions or for long periods, or even from arthritis and hence treating the underlying conditions provides relief from ear pain and tinnitus as well.
Trigeminal neuralgia is a serious nerve-related ailment affecting the trigeminal nerve in the head, which traverses vast areas in the top of the body above the neck. It develops when blood vessels irritate the root of the trigeminal nerve and forcefully press against it, prompting excruciating pain all along the face, including the ears. It can also occur due to multiple sclerosis, family history of the disease or abnormal growths i.e. tumours in the region and requires immediate medical treatment from a doctor, to resolve the nerve defects and subsequently heal pain and discomfort in the face and ears.