Causes of Ear Infections
Where does the Ear Pain come from?

There are of course a few causes of ear infections. We will take a look at the difference in causes between middle and outer ear canal infections

First a small explanation of the normal situation in the middle ear

Normally in the middle ear the small space behind the eardrum is filled with air. The air comes through a narrow channel called the Eustachian tube which connects the middle ear to the back of the throat and nose

The Eustachian tube is closed but you can open them briefly when you swallow or yawn (or pinch your nose and blow air in it, like you do on an airplane). This way the air pressure in the middle ear can balance the air pressure outside

Causes of ear infections in the middle ear


Sometimes the middle ear space gets filled with mucus, e.g. during a cold or other infections or right after chicken pox, measles or mumps. The cold can cause the tubes to swell enough to become blocked trapping fluids inside your ear. This makes it an ideal place for viruses, germs and bacteria to grow and cause an infection

Because in children these tubes are obviously smaller they get blocked more easily so they suffer more from middle ear infections than adults

A lot of the times in young children this ear infection often accompanies a cold, sore throat and cough. These are not symptoms but can be a sign that your child may also be developing an ear infection


Allergies like hay fever or nutritional allergies, can also cause inflammation and the build up of fluids in the middle ear. This fluid can again cause swelling of the ear drum if infected by a virus or bacteria

Foreign particles

In very few cases foreign particles in the ear are blocking the fluids with the same known results

However sometimes an ear infection occurs right out of nothing and for no apparent reason

Children and these causes of ear infections

causes of ear infections

By the time your children enter school they will probably stop having ear infections. The Eustachian tubes have grown by this time so there's better ventilation and drainage from the middle ear

Now their immune system is also stronger so they won't catch a cold so easily which could lead to an ear infection

They probably also know how to clear their nose by blowing it, this keeps the Eustachian tubes from getting blocked

And finally they also have learned better ways to wash their hands, which lowers the chance of spreading viruses and bacteria

Causes of ear infections in the outer ear canal also called swimmer’s ear

Bacteria of Fungi

Outer ear canal infection is largely caused by bacteria or fungi. Moist and wet conditions in the ear can stimulate infections (swimmer's ear). So a lot of swimming, excessive bathing or frequent exposure to water grows your chances of infection


Another cause can be the over-enthusiastically cleaning or scratching of the ear canal (e.g. with a cotton bud or even q-tip). The lining in there is very thin and easily damaged and infected

Ear wax

Ear wax can also cause a feeling of blockage, itching of the area, mild inflammation and pain and sometimes even hearing loss

Nutritional deficiency

An unhealthy diet can be a cause of ear pain

Skin allergies

Skin allergies and other infections can also be one of the causes

Ear injury

An ear injury may be the cause of the infection

Other causes of ear pain

Very uncommonly ear pain may have other causes than an infection in the ear. The earache can be caused by a disorder in a close by part of you body, this is called referred pain or radiation

The original cause may be dental problems like caries or tooth decay or teething in babies. Some others are tonsillitis, inflammation in the jaw or joint, tumors, neck muscle ache or problems with facial nerves (like trigeminal neuralgia)

Continue with our other ear Infection pages and find natural home remedies that work

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