Will you wait and see if the symptoms clear up, or will you visit the doctor? Though most ear pain can generally be managed at home, there are certain situations where we'd strongly recommend seeking a diagnosis from an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist. This can go a long way towards helping you avoid potential complications, while at the same time receiving treatment for your obvious ailments.

Ear pain is unpleasant, distracting, and frustrating. It can make it impossible to focus, impossible to do anything other than stew in its unpleasantness. The good news is that most instances of ear pain will clear up entirely on their own.

That said, there are a few occasions when ear pain may be a cause for concern:

  • The pain accompanies a stiff neck, intense drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, or a high fever. 
  • You also have a sore throat, a persistent cough, or a rash. 
  • You recently suffered trauma from the area. 
  • The pain appears to be either worsening or not improving in a day or so.
  • You're experiencing symptoms of tinnitus. 
  • You've signs of a more severe infection, such as discharge from the ear. 
  • Blowing your nose makes the pain worse. 
  • Wiggling your earlobe causes pain. 
  • You're suffering from minor to moderate hearing impairment. 
  • You were recently exposed to traumatic levels of noise, such as from industrial machinery or a particularly loud concert. 
  • The ear pain started to occur after sticking something in your ear (like a cotton swab). 
  • The ear pain accompanies symptoms of another, more serious condition, such as diabetes.

Treatment for ear pain depends largely on the cause. For infections, you may be prescribed antibiotics or a medicated cream. A warm compress over the ear can also help manage localized pain, and painkillers can be a means of managing the discomfort. 

For more serious conditions such as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ), you may also need to practice certain physical therapies, and an ENT may prescribe muscle relaxants or certain antidepressants. 

Ear pain isn't always a marker for something more serious. The ear, like any other sensitive organ, is very easy to damage. That said, there are also plenty of serious conditions that often have ear pain as a symptom, so it's important to always be vigilant. 

After all, as is the case with most disorders, the sooner you catch that something is wrong, the better your outlook — and the easier it is to receive treatment.