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What Are the Treatments for Earache in Adults?

What Are the Treatments for Earache in Adults?

Primary and referred are the two types of ear pain. A common example of primary ear pain in adults is otitis externa, or swimmer's ear. Referred pain travels along the nerves from an external source and is perceived in the ear. Intermountain Healthcare, a Utah-based non-profit network of health care professionals, clinics and hospitals, recommends seeing a doctor if earache is severe or if a fever of 103 F or stiff neck is present. Earache resulting from a sharp object inserted in the ear or earache in a person with diabetes also requires medical attention.


Taking over-the-counter pain medicine such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help relieve the discomfort of an earache. A decongestant can help open up the Eustachian tube that connects the ear and the nose. A physician may prescribe an antibiotic and/or an analgesic if pain is severe.

Applying Cold/Heat

Applying a cold compress or ice pack to the area for 20 minutes may help ease the discomfort. If cold is uncomfortable, try moderate heat applications such as a heating pad on low, or hot water bottle.

Vinegar Rinses

Diluting white vinegar with an equal amount of warm water and gently rinsing the ear canal with the solution twice a day may be helpful. After 5 minutes, the ear should be allowed to drain. This helps decrease swelling in the canal and restore a normal pH balance. Do not use this treatment if a hole in the eardrum is suspected or ear tubes are present.

Ear Irrigation

Tulane University Medical Center, Department of Otolaryngolgoy-Head and Neck Surgery in New Orleans states that excessive ear wax is the most common ear problem seen by doctors. Treatment is removal through irrigation of the ear wax from the canal. Warm sterile water or sterile saline is syringed into the ear and allowed to drain, flushing excess ear wax from the canal.

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