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With review and feedback from CEENTA ENT doctor Jonathan Moss, MD (Matthews)

You swallow and a pain flashes through your ear. You may know that ear pain can be associated with swallowing, but you might not know why. Today, we’ll tell you about some of the reasons ear pain might accompany swallowing.

Ear infections

The most common cause of the association between ear pain and swallowing is an ear, nose, or throat infection. A very common source is an ear infection. An ear infection occurs when one of your Eustachian tubes becomes swollen or blocked, causing fluid to build up in your middle ear. Viruses or bacteria get caught in the middle ear as a result.

Signs of an ear infection in adults include an earache, fullness in the ear, a stabbing pain in the ear, difficulty hearing, and possible ear drainage. In children, they can include ear pain, pulling at their ear, difficulty hearing, increased crying and irritability, fever, drainage, a loss of appetite, the inability to sleep, a headache, and balance issues.

Swimmer’s ear, which is an infection of the outer ear, can cause more intense pain in the ear canal that can be intensified when chewing, swallowing or pulling on the ear.

Nose and throat infections

The adenoids are immune system tissue located in the back of the nasal passages. They grow larger when they catch germs entering the nose and mouth. If they grow too large, they can block the Eustachian tubes. This adenoid inflammation can cause pain.

Someone with tonsillitis will experience pain when swallowing, and that pain can be referred to the ear. This is commonly experienced by patients after tonsil surgery. Similarly, a peritonsillar abscess can cause pain that extends to the ear and gets worse if someone swallows or opens their mouth.

Other causes

A dental abscess, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, problems with the glossopharyngeal nerve, and other rare conditions can also cause ear pain when you swallow.

Diagnoses at CEENTA

Jonathan Moss, MD

“There are a multitude of medical conditions that cause ear pain,” CEENTA ENT doctor Jonathan Moss, MD, said. “In children this is most likely ear infections, but not in adults. Adults are commonly misdiagnosed with ear infections due to the symptoms of ear pain, but that is rarely the origin. In adults it is most likely a non-infectious cause. Seeing an ear, nose, and throat specialist is key to getting the right diagnosis and treatment.”

If you are concerned about why your ear hurts when you swallow, schedule an appointment at CEENTA for the premier treatment you deserve.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. Would you like an appointment with Dr. Moss? Call 704-295-3000. You can also schedule an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.


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