Common causes of sharp pain in ear and home remedies

common causesExperiencing shape pain in the ear is a common problem that affects many people. It can be due to a problem within the ear itself or be part of neighboring structures.

The ear is composed of three parts: the external (outer), middle, and inner ear. The external ear is made up of the auricle (what we typically think of when we envision an ear), and the ear canal. The middle ear is the ear drum and various tiny bones responsible for conducting sound and sound transfer. Lastly, the inner ear is composed of the cochlea and semicircular canals, which are responsible for the actual process of hearing sounds to be sent to the brain for interpretation via the auditory nerve.

What are the causes of sharp ear pain


Your ears are complex organs with many moving parts. If something were to impede its ability to function at any of the various structures of the ear, shooting pain in your ear may result. The following are conditions that can cause shooting pain in the ear:

Ear wax

A normal presence in human ears, ear wax prevents the entry of dust and germs. However, if excess ear wax were to build up, it could become dried and harden, potentially leading to shooting pain and the feeling of fullness in the ears.

Ear barotrauma

Traveling at higher altitudes causes changes in pressure that affect the structures of the ear. This may cause shooting pain in the ear as well as general discomfort, stuffiness, or fullness in the ears.

Outer ear infection

Also known as otitis externa or swimmers ear, having a bacterial or fungal infection can lead to shooting pain in the ear.

Middle ear infection

A common infection experienced in young children who suffer from recurring colds. It is often identified by children constantly tugging at the ear and complaining of shooting pain that is worse at night. A middle ear infection may affect hearing if not properly treated.


Inflammation of the mastoid process of the ear due to an untreated middle ear infection can lead to the development of shooting ear pain.

Eardrum rupture

Also called the tympanic membrane, this ear structure plays an important role in the hearing process. Activities such as scuba diving, high altitude adventures, or simply inserting objects into the ear canal can cause ear drum damage.

Foreign body impaction

Small toys, nuts, marbles, and other objects that are small enough to go in the ear canal can cause pain.


A cyst in the middle ear that can exert pressure on the ear drum and bones of the ear, possibly leading to ear structure damage. This damage can lead to an infection that may spread to nearby areas within the skull, potentially leading to complications like abscesses in the brain, meningitis, or even cranial nerve damage.

Meniere’s disease

A condition affecting the inner ear that can lead to the development of ear pain, ringing of the ears, vertigo, and problems hearing.


Allergic rhinitis, the common cold, and other nasal conditions can cause shooting pain in the ears.


An infection of the sinus cavities found at the front of the skull leading to congestion.

Sore throat

Irritation or inflammation of the throat can cause difficulty swallowing and shooting pain in the ears.Sore throats may be due to excessive coughing, allergies, or infections. It may also be associated with swollen neck glands and changes in the the voice.

Tonsillitis and other infections

When the tonsils are inflamed, they often become enlarged and tender, leading to painful swallowing.

Home remedies for relieving sharp pain in ear

Keep it warm

Using a warm compress placed over the ear can help alleviate pain and reduce swelling. More importantly, the heat provided will make your ear pain feel much better.

Massage with olive oil

A great lubricant for the ear that provides relief from sharp ear pain. Putting a drop of olive oil down the ear canal and plugging it with a piece of cotton can serve as an effective treatment for sharp ear pain relief.

Clear a stuffy nose

When the nose is congested or blocked, it can result in exacerbated ear pain. Gently blow your nose to release any mucus. You can also purchase several over-the-counter remedies that can help clear congested sinuses

Steam it out

The use of steam and a few drops of eucalyptus oil can help ease the pain brought on by congested sinuses. Carefully lean your head over a steamy bowl of hot water mixture and breathe in deeply.

Use hydrogen peroxide

A common solution for treating cuts and wounds, hydrogen peroxide can also be used to help relieve ear pain. Soak a cotton ball with the liquid and then squeeze a few drops into the ear. This will help irrigate the ear and dislodge any debris. Use water to further irrigate and clean out the ear completely.

Pain relievers

There are times where sharp ear pain is too severe for home remedies, which is when pain relievers are a good option. Commonly found pain relievers include acetaminophen and ibuprofen. If the pain is too much, prescription grade medication can be obtained from your local doctor.

Take vitamins

Antioxidant vitamins include vitamins A, C, and E, and help to reduce ear inflammation causes of pain. They also help to maintain the body’s immune system.

Try onion powder

When mixed with water, it makes a thick paste that can be applied to the outer ear, helping to eliminate swelling and pain.

Move your jaw

Moving the jaw up and down in rapid succession and on a regular basis helps to keep the ear canals clear and open.

Use herbal remedies


This includes basil and peppermint juice. The use of essential oils, such as eucalyptus, can help to relieve pain as well. Basil juice can be used directly in the ear, but peppermint and eucalyptus oil should not be due to their high potency when used alone.

Seek medical care

If nothing you do relieves your sharp ear pain, it is time to see a doctor.

Related: 9 essential oils for ear infection: How to use them, and warnings

Author Bio

Devon Andre has been involved in the health and dietary supplement industry for a number of years. Devon has written extensively for Bel Marra Health. He has a Bachelor of Forensic Science from the University of Windsor, and went on to complete a Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh. Devon is keenly aware of trends and new developments in the area of health and wellness. He embraces an active lifestyle combining diet, exercise and healthy choices. By working to inform readers of the options available to them, he hopes to improve their health and quality of life.


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