When an Ear Ache Doesn't Mean Your
Ear Is Hurt
-- Top 7 Reasons
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December 7, 2017


By Ariadne Weinberg, Featured Columnist



I haven't had an earache in years. When I was a little kid, I
got ear pain frequently and still remember how painful it is.
They weren't an indicator of much of anything besides a hurt
ear, and often came with an infection.




The official name for an earache or ear pain is "otalgia".
There are many, many, causes for otalgia, and oddly enough,
not all of them are directly related to the inner ear, according
to a 2016 report from E. Harrison from the University of
Cambridge.

The ear pain I described in the above paragraph, a condition
I luckily only had as a toddler and little kid, is referred to as
"primary otalgia". This kind of ear pain is a disease occurring
directly within the ear, and generally comes along with an
infection. If you're lucky, it just requires cotton swabs or
another method to remove the wax.  


However, not all ear pain is so straightforward. Sometimes
what feels like it's coming from your ear might have another
origin. The cause may not be primary otalgia, but rather
secondary otalgia, pain that is referred to the ear by
travelling along cranial nerves.


The cases of secondary otalgia are generally the most
insidious. They can be an indicator of a totally different kind
of issue or a serious disease. Read on to find out what ear
pain could be a symptom of.  




































1.
When an Earache Means Tongue Cancer


This is strange, but true. Oddly enough, sometimes reflex
otalgia (fancy talk for ear pain) is a predictive and
prognostic factor for people with oropharynx carcinoma.

In 2004, Harriet Thoeny and researchers from the University
of Bern, Switzerland wanted to know exactly what parts an
earache affected morphologically in the mouth.

They tested 36 patients who were evaluated by MRI before
radical radiotherapy; 16 with reflex otalgia, 20 not. The
oropharynx and adjacent regions were analyzed.

With reflex otalgia, it affected the nasopharynx, hard palate,
superior constrictor pharyngis muscle, palatine tonsil,
palatopharyngeus muscle, palatoglossus muscle,
stylopharyngeus muscle, hyoglossus muscle and
preepiglottic space. These structures are all part of the
glossopharyngeal nerve.  




2.
When an Earache Means a Migraine  


Your ears beginning to hurt could be a symptom of an
oncoming migraine. You can find the association between
otalgia and migraines in lots of anecdotal evidence online
(and maybe from friends).

Michael Teixado and his colleagues from the Christiana and
Care Health System in Wilmington, Delaware wanted to know
just how closely ear pain and extreme headaches were
related.

In 2011, they tested subjects with otalgia, treating them
with first line abortive and prophylactic migraine therapies.
Of the 26 patients that participated, 92% responded to
migraine therapy with improved symptom frequency,
severity, and duration.

The researchers concluded that otalgia of an unclear cause
could be related to migraine mechanisms.


3.
When an Earache Means Hearing Loss


If your earache is chronic (lasting more than 6-12 weeks) it
could be related to a degree of conductive hearing loss.

In 2016, S.S. Zaidi Ali from the Aga Khan University Hospital
tested for the frequency of sensorineural hearing loss with
chronic suppurative otitis (a specific kind of ear pain that
occurs when a perforated tympanic membrane with
persistent drainage from the middle ear is present). Ali and
colleagues surveyed reports from the Aga Khan University
Hospital from 2013 to 2014.

They found sensorineural hearing loss in 52% of patients,
and saw that frequency increased with increasing duration.
If you have this specific kind of earache, it's important to get
a prompt diagnosis to see if you are losing your hearing.




4.
When an Earache Means Temporomandibular Joint
Disorder



Sometimes what feels like it's coming from the ear actually
derives from somewhere else.

Many people who report otalgia don't know the discomfort is
coming from the joint. The temporomandibular joint refers
to where the jaw meets the upper skull in front of the ear.

According to Christopher Chang, Yale University graduate
and doctor at Ear, Nose, Throat Consultants in Warrenton,
Virginia the symptoms that might feel like an earache, but
are in fact temporomandibular joint disorder, include
popping, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), clickings, and
pulsations.

What's actually needed is not to cure the ear, but to relax
the joint. There are many techniques you can consult your
healthcare professional about to achieve loosening things
up.  



5.
When an Earache Means Cervical Spine Disorder


This is one of the more unfortunate ones. Otalgia has been
confirmed to be secondary to cervical spine degenerative
disease.

In 2008, J.J. Jaber and researchers from the Loyola
University Medical Center in Illinois statistically analyzed the
correlation. They examined 123 patients, all diagnosed with
unspecified ear pain. The first group of 72 was not referred
for cervical spine disease and the second group was
comprised of people with cervical spine disease referred
otalgia.

The most common cause of ear pain in group one was
temporomandibular joint disease, and the thing most
attributed to earaches in group two was cervical spine
disease (Their analysis was correct). Researchers concluded
that the aging population in the U.S. who had referred
otalgia would very often have some kind of cervical spine
condition.




6.
When an Earache Means Tonsillitis


Yes, another throat condition. When you experience certain
types of ear pain, it could point directly to tonsillitis.

If there is pain in the eustachian tube or medial surface of
the tympanic membrane, it could actually be due to tonsillitis
or pharyngitis, according to Marcello Cherchi, a Chicago-
based doctor and assistant professor of neurology at
Northwestern University.




7.
When an Earache Means Eustachian Tube Dysfunction


Ear pain due to a eustachian tube glitch is also fairly
common. The eustachian tube is used when swallowing and
yawning in order to equalize the ambient atmospheric
pressure in the middle ear.

Beth Lange, a Calgary-based ear, nose, and throat specialist
says there are generally two types of ear discomfort you
could feel in this case: Your earache may be like the
sensation of discomfort in an airplane descent where there is
too much pressure. It could also be accompanied by hearing
loss and feeling a kind of echo in your head.

If these are your symptoms, get your eustachian tube
checked out.  












































Related:
Tinnitus -Symptoms and Remedies /Meniere's
Disease-Ideal Diet /Foods That Reduce Blood Pressure
/
Sugar-the Disease Connection /Foods That Shrink Your
Waist / Ideal Weight for Women / Swollen Ankles -Causes
and Cures /Tight Bras and Briefs-Health Dangers /Are Diet
Sodas Bad for Your Health?
Bowel Color-What It Means/ Urine Color-What It Means


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