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Answers From Experts & Organizations (1)

Internal Medicine
Emory University
131 Answers
108,570 Helpful Votes

The first thing to do for an earache is to find out why it’s aching. The main concern would be for acute otitis media, an infection of the middle ear (the space behind the eardrum).

Acute otitis media causes pain and sometimes decreased hearing in one or both ears. Acute otitis media is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Your doctor can diagnose acute otitis media by looking in your ear with an otoscope. In acute otitis media, the eardrum (tympanic membrane) is often swollen and inflamed, and fluid sometimes builds up behind it.

Another cause of ear pain is inflammation of the outer ear or ear canal, called  otitis externa or "swimmer's ear." Otitis externa is sometimes caused by an infectious agent. Your doctor can perform an ear exam and determine the appropriate treatment.

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