According to National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders suggests that roughly 37.5 million Americans aged 18 and above experience trouble in hearing. Ear pain, whether as a result of surgery, infection or an object, can be excruciating, especially at night as it tends to be worse mainly because of poor sleeping positions.
Ear pain can occur gradually or all of a sudden. The pain can feel dull, sharp, or burning, and can be temporary or ongoing. Usually, the pain emerges in only one ear, but sometimes it can appear in both ears.
An ear pain can make life hard to enjoy. If left untreated, any sort of ear pain can lead to even more serious health complications. That is why it is important to address any changes in your hearing health as soon as possible.
What is Ear Pain?
Ear pain happens in the inner or outer ear that can interfere with your ability to hear. It can be extremely frustrating and can cause debilitating pain, affecting your ability to sleep.
What Causes Ear Pain?
The way an ear pain feels for one person may not be the same for someone else, as people experience ear pain in a variety of different ways. Likewise, the origin of an ear pain varies depending on a number of factors. In particular, the pain someone endures may be due to a problem that stems in one ear or both. In some cases, an ear pain is a result of other underlying health issues that affect the ears. Some common causes of ear pain include:
1. Ear Infection
If the ear pain is as a result of an ear infection, a pus-like or watery fluid may appear from affected ear. The most common ear infections are: Otitis externa (outer ear infection) and Otitis media (middle ear infection). Otitis externa leads to inflammation of the tube located between the eardrum and outer ear (the external ear canal), and the associated pain can be very severe or moderate. On the other hand, Otitis media results to a build-up of fluid as well as inflammation behind the eardrum.
2. Damage to the ear
Ear pain can also occur due to damage located inside of the ear caused by either scratching or poking. Despite doctors’ counseling, many people are fond of poking cotton buds inside their ears and even scraping earwax from their ear canals - all of which can easily damage your ear canal. Generally, such actions scratch the ear canal, push the wax back into your ear, and can even puncture your eardrum if the cotton bud is poked hard into the ear, causing unbearable pain.
3. Throat Infections
Ear pain can also be a symptom of throat infections such as quinsy or tonsillitis. Thus, if you suffer from a sore throat and find it painful to swallow as well, your ear pain could be a result of such infections.
4. Earwax buildup
Some people naturally produce more earwax compared to others, and this can cause a congestion to form inside their ear canals, which can be agonizing and may even interfere with their hearing. It can also produce an ‘earwax plug’- a condition where the earwax buildup hardens and blocks your ear’s passageway.
5. Problems with your jaw
In some cases, ear pain is also a caused by a complication affecting the joint of the jaw bone. This is a condition that’s referred to as temporomandibular joint pain, which also is a result of other problems such as teeth grinding or arthritis.
6. A dental abscess
Ear pain is occasionally the result of a dental abscess caused by a bacterial infection. This health problem leads to a collection of pus, which can accumulate in your gums or teeth, giving rise to a throbbing and intense pain in the affected tooth; also often spreads to the ear.
Why does ear pain feel worse at night?
Our head is almost always in a vertical position during the day and allows air to flow freely through the narrow passage running from the throat to the middle ear cavity, also called as Eustachian tubes. Furthermore, slight movements such as yawning and chewing, cause these tubes to open wider and helps drain the fluid, thereby allowing more air to pass through. However, when you lie down at night, this makes it increasingly difficult for the air to pass through; making it difficult for the tubes to drain and may become clogged. This explains why your ear pain may feel worse during nighttime compared to the pain felt during the day.
Lying down into your normal sleep routine becomes a difficult task when you're suffering from ear pain. You may also find yourself waking up frequently during the night feeling to sudden sharp pains in the ear; and this in turn, may leave you feeling worn out and quite unsettled during the next day.
How to Improve Ear Pain?
Usually, ear pain tends to go away on their own; but if your pain is derived from an ear infection, then a prescribed course of antibiotics or ear drops should help you feel better within 2 to 3 days.
But, there are also some other ways of managing your ear pain:
Pain relief at home - During the first 48 hours of the ear pain, these several home remedies may help alleviate the pain and hence allow you to have a more peaceful night’s sleep:
- Elevating the head. Try elevating your head and neck using a few extra soft pillows; this can help clear out your Eustachian tube and allow more air to pass through. However, sleeping like this may lead to spinal and neck pain. If possible, you can opt on elevating your bed’s head by placing 5 or 6 inch wooden blocks under the bed’s legs or place a few sturdy books. You can also prop a wedge pillow between the bed and your mattress.
- Use an ear drops. Ear drops for pain is a great treatment option. Antipyrine and benzocaine otic provide ear pain relief and can be easily be purchased in most local drugstores. Some ear drops are made from herbal extracts which are more suitable for certain people. However, if you opt to use ear drops, you must speak to your primary care physician first to see if it’s safe and suitable for you.
- Apply a heat pack. Try placing a heat pack or a warm cloth onto the area where the pain radiates for about five minutes; if your problem is as a result of congestion caused by earwax buildup, the heat radiating from the cloth should help soften the earwax.
- Use a hairdryer. Another heat remedy you should consider is setting your hairdryer on a low, warm setting and holding it about twenty centimeters away from the affected ear. Maintain this position for a few minutes.
- Take over-the-counter medicines. Many pain relievers found in a local grocery store or drugstore provide effective ear pain relief. If you're hesitant on spending money to see a doctor and purchasing expensive antibiotics, the best thing you can do is buy some ibuprofen or aspirin and take them before going to bed. This will help relieve your ear pain during the night and even the entire day while waiting for your doctor’s appointment.
- Keep hydrated. Sip some water before going to sleep; the swallowing motion can help trigger the muscles that allows the Eustachian tubes to open up and drain, therefore reducing your ear pain.
- Consult your doctor. If the ear pain persists for more than 48 hours, you should see your doctor to have your ears checked. Avoid poking at the affected ear or even attempt on self-medicating (other than taking pain relievers), until you’ve talk to your health care provider. Otherwise, it could worsen your ear pain leading to an infection. Your doctor may prescribe some medication suitable for your condition.
5 Best Pillow for Ear Pain
1. ComfyCentre Orthopedic Memory Foam Pillow
This unique design memory foam pillow by ComfyCentre delivers a sleek, aesthetic design that fits perfectly in modern homes. It features an ergonomic design that follows your cervical vertebra that relieves pressure on your neck. It offers better alignment while you sleep as it follows the natural curve of your neck. This pillow is meant to pamper your neck and shoulders and supports the delicate body parts such as the ear.
After testing multiple memory foam pillows, the ComfyCentre memory foam pillow retain its shape and gives you a higher density and higher quality in comparison to other brands. The hypoallergenic and breathable memory foam cover that comes with it eliminate the need to fluff the pillow in the middle of the night to get the right feel.
2. PainPure Comfort Pillow
Say no more ear pain with this pillow that comes with a ear hole. This pillow is designed to protect your ears while sleeping and lessen any pain that may occur throughout the night.
It has an adjustable feature which you can modify according to your preference. You can either remove or add the elastic memory foam to ensure you get the comfort you need. The breathable fabric allows you to have a comfortable sleep through the night. The manufacturers specifically designed the pillow for durability and reliability even with every night use.
3. Remedy Contour Pillow
This full-body pillow from Remedy offers ear pain relief. The U-shaped feature promotes a healthy sleeping posture and also reduces any back and neck strain. The built-in ear pocket on both sides help support and position your neck and head safely on the pillow for ultimate comfort.
This pillow is perfect for travel and can easily be taken with due to its size and lightweight feature. It conforms to your body when you are sleeping, so you wake up feeling recharged.
As a side sleeper, you may feel the need to use multiple pillows. This side sleeping pillow alone eliminates the need of having many pillows as you can get sound sleep and reduced pain , thanks to its unique design. This pillow is designed to cradle your body and prevents you from tossing and turning around while sleeping. It keeps your shoulders, neck, and back properly positioned all night.
4. Purecomfort Side Sleeping Pillow
If you suffer from ear pressure and chronic ear pain, this pillow might be the solution. It features ear holes that aim to reduce ear pain as you sleep. This pillow also reduces facial pressure and suitable if you use CPAP.
This fully adjustable memory foam pillow is CertiPUR certified and comes with height inserters that holds the pillow to the height and comfort you need. This pillow comes with a soft bamboo cover that is resistant to dust and mites. The materials and filling used for this pillow are TDCPP, PBDEs, lead, phthalates, and formaldehyde - rest assured there's no chemical odor.
5. Nature’s Guest Adjustable Cervical Pillow
This adjustable pillow from Nature's Guest offers 100% satisfaction regardless of your preferred sleeping style. It has a zipper design for easy access, allowing you to adjust it evenly to meet your preferable sleeping expectations.
It is made of hypoallergenic premium quality material to ensure you get maximum comfort all through the night. The pillow is suitable for both back and side sleepers. This pillow meets all the orthopedic and chiropractor standards for maximum comfort and tested to relieve you from any neck and back pain while keeping your ears protected all night long.
There are several practical ways you can do to prevent ear pain or ear infections, such as never poke the inside of your ear with an object like a q-tip. If an ear pain is a result of the flu, a flu shot may help with the prevention. You can also prevent pressure ear pain by chewing a gum before you board a plane and when the plane is about to get off.
To further maintain your head and neck elevated and supported all night long, our memory foam pillow is the perfect pillow for you. It is made from UltraDense Foam™ to provide maximum posture support and promotes proper elevation that can help clear your Eustachian tube to alleviate ear pain.