Learn more about when ear pain is a cause for concern

When Is Ear Pain Something More Serious?

You begin to notice significant pain in your ear, interrupting your day. Should you make a doctor’s appointment for your earache or go straight to the emergency department?

When seeking medical attention for your earache, consult UPMC CareFinder to locate a UPMC Urgent Care center, Emergency Department, Walk-in Primary Care, or Children’s Express Care close to you. You can even receive an online medical visit with UPMC AnywhereCare.

Earaches can happen in different parts of the ear, and they occur for a variety of reasons. Learn about the causes of ear pain and how to identify serious symptoms — so you know when it’s time to seek care for your pain.

RELATED: How to Properly Clean Your Ears

When to Go to the ER for Ear Pain

You should consider seeking emergency care if you experience the following symptoms with ear pain:

  • Stiff neck
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • High fever
  • A recent blow to the ear or recent head trauma

When to Speak to a Doctor About Ear Pain

See a doctor or visit an urgent care center for the less severe earache symptoms:

  • Minor hearing loss, ringing in ears, and/or dizziness
  • Signs of infection, including a low fever
  • A sticky or bloody discharge coming from the ear
  • Increased pain when wiggling the ear lobe
  • Nose blowing that results in ear pain
  • Pain that worsens or does not improve over 24 to 48 hours

Tell your doctor if you have been exposed to loud, prolonged noise, such as a concert or industrial machinery. Also tell your doctor if an object has been inserted in your ear.

Home Remedies for Minor Ear Pain

Sometimes ear pain will go away on its own, and a doctor’s care is not needed. If ear pain subsides, you should continue to monitor it closely in case it reoccurs.  In addition, the following pain may not necessarily need medical treatment:

  • Ear pain caused by jaw pain or a headache
  • Ear pain from recurring cases of swimmer’s ear