Otalgia (Earache)

Otalgia is aching or pain in the ear and causes can be primary, relating to the ear itself or referred from sources outside the ear.

Causes of Otalgia

External ear causes

Middle ear causes

Referred pain

  • Otitis externa
  • Foreign body
  • Trauma
  • Impacted cerumen
  • Bullous myringitis
  • Furuncle
  • Herpes zoster
  • Neoplasm
  • Otomycosis
  • Perichondritis of pinna
  • Otitis media
  • Effusion associated with otitis media
  • Acute mastoiditis
  • Barotrauma
  • Acute obstruction of eustachian tube
  • Neoplasm
  • Trauma
  • Nasopharynx - adenoidectomy, infection or neoplasm
  • Cranial nerve referred pain - e.g. Vth cranial nerve - trigeminal neuralgia, VIIth cranial nerve - Ramsay Hunt syndrome, glossopharyngeal or cranial nerve - tonsillitis
  • Salivary glands - calculi or infection
  • Teeth and jaw - impaction of molars, malocclusion, TMJ arthritis
  • Base of skull - elongated styloid process
  • Petrous aneurysms
  • Oesophagus - foreign body, reflux or neoplasm
  • Inflammation or neoplasm of oropharnyx, tongue or larynx
  • Temporal arteritis
  • Thyroidits

Otalgia is very common especially in children and most cases are transient.

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