Sharp Pain Behind Ears

sharp pain behind earsThere are many reasons which can be an underlying problem when it comes to the occurrence of sharp pain behind ears. It can be pretty uncomfortable when experiencing this kind of sensation since it can be an indication of many conditions from ear problems, lymph nodes, brain issues and others. Due to its localization, it is important to diagnose it right in order to prevent any dangerous complications and possibly permanent damage.

Possible Causes Of Sharp Pain Behind Ears

There are numerous problems which can be a cause of this kind of condition. It is important to treat it promptly in order to prevent complications. There are a few factors which are important to consider when diagnosing a problem which is frequency, intensity and localization of the pain. Here are some of the most common causes.

Otitis Media

Otitis media is an inflammation of the middle ear which consists of space filled with air. This space contains bones and eardrum which are important for creating sounds by vibration. It can be filled up with fluid and cause a sharp pain behind the ear. It is usually only in one ear and it can be due to bacteria or viral invasion.

Therapy. The pain for otitis media is sometimes only monitoring to prevent spreading and worsening of the pain. It usually subsides by itself. It can be dangerous for young boys or if gets worse and brings some complications. In that case, the doctor can prescribe some antibiotics for bacterial infections or some other drugs if it’s viral infection.

Swollen Lymph Node

There are many lymph nodes around the ear and neck zone, therefore it can be a common cause of pain behind ears. The lymph node can get swollen on any occasion such as tooth pain or some viral or bacterial infection of the throat or any other area. It can be an infection or even cancer, so it is important to investigate the problem and have the doctor check any swollen lymph nodes.

Therapy. If the cause of this condition is a bacterial infection, a doctor will prescribe an antibiotic. If the problem goes further than this, such as cancer, your doctor will opt for the best solution for treating cancer, either surgical or chemotherapy.


Mastoiditis is an inflammation of the bone behind ears called mastoid bone. It is space filled up with air which primary function if the drainage of the middle ear. Mastoiditis is an infection which can be caused when the drainage gets interrupted and the fluid gets stuck inside the bone. It can be a cyst or any other issue which blocks the path of elimination. It gets painful, swollen and red with fever, irritability and high tenderness of the ear lobe and the area around it.

Therapy. It includes the elimination of the liquids and also prevention of any bacterial infection. The doctor can prescribe some antibiotics and ear drops which are used to clear up the pathway. Some cases may even need surgical help with drainage or ear cleaning.


Cerumen is the name for ear wax and ceruminosis is the condition of too much earwax. It can build up and clog the ear canal leading to sharp pain behind ears which can be followed by itchy feeling inside the ears and also bad hearing. It can be also caused by using ear buds or by clearing the ear canal which can end up in pushing the ear wax deeper into the ear and blocking the ear canal. It is usually due to excessive production in the ear glands.

Therapy. The doctor can prescribe some eardrops for softening the ear wax but can also perform an elimination with some kind of instrument which gets the cerumen out of the ear.

Tooth Problem

As we mentioned above, a sharp pain behind ears can be a consequence of tooth infection or tooth growth. It can cause a lymph node to swell and cause sharp pain behind ears.

Therapy. The therapy here is supposed to be aimed at treating the tooth in order to prevent the complication and to treat the primary reason for this occurrence. You can use some over-the-counter medicine to treat the pain and swelling of the lymph node but you should go visit your dentist in order to prevent any inflammation and complications. You can also use some saline water to rinse your mouth and help with stopping the inflammation.

Swimmer’s Ear

Swimmer’s ear is the condition which is caused by water remainings in the ear after swimming. It can block the connection between the ear canal and the eardrum which can result in a bad hearing. There are also other reasons which can cause this conditions such as damaging the top layer of the skin by dragging cotton swabs or other objects inside the ear canal which can also affect the hearing.

Therapy. As this kind of pain is caused by water retention, it is important to wait for it to clear. You can use some over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen, but if you have damaged skin layer, it is important to visit a doctor in order to get the needed help.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Certain conditions can cause sharp pain behind ears such as whiplash injury, jaw injury or joint dislocation. It can be painful and cause similar symptoms due to its location around the ears.

Therapy. These conditions can be treated with certain procedures in the doctor’s office, or, depending on the cause, it can be solved with some relaxants, pain killers, and tricyclic antidepressants. If the cause if jaw injury or dislocation, the doctor may opt for surgery.


Most important, since ears are near the brain, it is important to investigate the pain, especially if it feels like a headache. There are numerous types of headaches that can be such as sharp pain behind ears such as hemicrania continua or an ice-pick headache and many more such as nummular headaches, ice-cream headache, cervicogenic headache, sudden unilateral neuralgiform headache with conjunctival injection and tears, primary yawning headache, etc.


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