Why Do Ears Hurt: A Guide to Causes (And What to Do)

Parents know how common earaches are in children, but adults can get frequent ear pain, too. You don’t have to have an infection, or even anything wrong with your ears, to have ear pain. This blog post will discuss some of the most common causes.

Why Do Ears Hurt: A Guide to Causes (And What to Do)

1 – Earwax

Earwax is a natural substance produced by the body, and it has a useful function because it can help to protect the ear canal from dust and water. Commonly, earwax will drain from the ear canal to the outside of the ear naturally. Our ears create wax because our body needs to maintain a defense against bacteria, foreign objects, and moisture.

However, earwax can get impacted and clog up the ear canal, which can cause discomfort and pain. Earwax blocks the ear canal, which can lead to the irritation of the skin inside the ear canal to the formation of an ear infection.

2 – Swimmer’s Ear

Swimmer’s ear is an ear infection caused by bacteria or fungus. Bacteria and fungus can easily enter the inner parts of the ear canal when water gets inside the ear. The water can get in if the ear canal is wet and especially if there is a perforation or hole in the eardrum.

Swimmer’s ear is often mistaken for an ear infection, but it is actually an outer ear canal infection. However, a perforated eardrum can lead to an inner ear infection. Usual cases of swimmer’s ear are usually caused by swimming in contaminated water, but it can also occur in hot tubs.

3 – Change in Air Pressure

A change in air pressure can cause ear pain, and it is more common when people are traveling. As an airplane descends, the air pressure in the ear canal changes, and it can cause the eardrum to ‘pop.’ This popping sound is called an ‘eardrum miniature explosion.’ Change in air pressure is one of the most common causes of ear pain.

If the change in pressure is sudden, it can cause the eardrum to burst. This is called a perforated eardrum. A perforated eardrum can cause sudden ear pain, vertigo, and hearing loss.

4 – Infections

A bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic infection can cause ear pain. Viral infections are the most common cause of ear pain. However, ear infections can be caused by certain bacteria and fungi, too.

5 – Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a problem that causes ringing in the ears. It is a condition that is sometimes caused by ear infections, but it can also be caused by age and exposure to loud noise.


Ear pain is a common problem. If the ear pain is caused by an infection, the infection can spread to the inner ear, which can lead to hearing loss, vertigo, and dizziness. It is beneficial to deal with an ear infection as soon as possible, to avoid any ear complications. Going to your doctor or a nearby urgent care center will help you get to the bottom of why you have pain in your ear.

If you need an urgent care center for your ear pain, come to Aspen Medical Center. We offer state-of-the-art primary care and urgent care services in Santa Fe and Espanola, NM. Visit us, and let’s get you treated today!