Ear problems may be caused by many different health problems. In children, ear pain is more likely to be a symptom of an inflammation, infection, or fluid buildup in the external or middle ear. But ear pain at any age may be a symptom of:
Ear problems caused by an injury to the ear can occur at any age. Common injuries include the following:
Hearing loss often comes with age. As people get older, ear problems are more likely to be related to:
The ear shares nerves with other parts of the face, eyes, jaw, teeth, and upper neck. Pain that feels as if it is in the ear may be coming from another part of the head or neck. This is called referred ear pain and is more common in older adults. Causes of referred ear pain can include dental problems, jaw pain (temporomandibular disorder), salivary gland infection, or a sinus infection.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Temperature varies a little depending on how you measure it. For adults and children age 12 and older, these are the ranges for high, moderate, and mild, according to how you took the temperature.
Oral (by mouth) temperature
A forehead (temporal) scanner is usually 0.5°F (0.3°C) to 1°F (0.6°C) lower than an oral temperature.
Armpit (axillary) temperature
Symptoms of an external ear infection may include:
Vertigo is the feeling that you or your surroundings are moving when there is no actual movement. It may feel like spinning, whirling, or tilting. Vertigo may make you sick to your stomach, and you may have trouble standing, walking, or keeping your balance.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
If you're not sure if a fever is high, moderate, or mild, think about these issues:
With a high fever:
With a moderate fever:
With a mild fever:
Pain in adults and older children
Symptoms of a stroke may include:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Home treatment may be all that is needed to relieve minor or intermittent ear discomfort.
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
You may be able to prevent ear problems.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
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