The Most Effective Home Remedies to Get Rid of an Earache
Earaches are very common and they can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. Germs or microbes infecting the middle ear (otitis media) or the outer ear (otitis externa) can cause swelling, redness, mild to severe pain in the ear, itchiness, or buzzing in your ear. However, it is not only infections that can cause earache. You may have a painful ear if there is a buildup of earwax, your ear has been injured, or you have an allergic reaction. Even a throat infection can cause an earache.
Getting rid of an earache depends on the cause of the ear pain. If the pain in your ear is caused by an infection, then home remedies like a warm compress, garlic, or warm olive oil can soothe the inflammation and promote healing. Natural remedies like hydrogen peroxide help to unblock earwax, apple cider vinegar reduces itching and is antiseptic, and some have used diluted tea tree oil for an earache.
In this article, you will learn about the best home remedies to get rid of an earache. First of all, let’s look at the various causes of earache and how to prevent ear infections.
Causes & Symptoms of Earache
Learning about the causes of pain and inflammation in the ear can also help to prevent an earache from becoming so bad that it interferes with your daily activities.
A common cause of an earache is a bacterial or viral infection in the ear and these types of ear infections commonly affect children. According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, the ear infection causes inflammation and a buildup of fluid in the middle ear. This results in ear pain, swelling, and possibly hearing impairment.1
If your ear infection starts to cause a severe earache or you have a discharge from your ear, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Earache can be caused by an allergy response in your respiratory system. Your ears and sinuses are connected and allergies can cause your sinuses to clog up. According to Dr. Jennifer Robinson from WebMD, this can cause pain and a muffled sensation in your ear.2
Change in air pressure
Another cause of having pain in one or both of your ears is a change in air pressure. Changing altitude quickly when flying, driving in the mountains, or scuba diving can cause different pressure between the inside and outside of the eardrum – a condition called ear barotrauma. According to a specialist in laryngology, Dr. Sumana Jothi, this can cause ear discomfort or pain in one or both ears.3
Injury to the ear
Your ear canal is very sensitive and injury to the middle ear can damage the ear canal and cause your ear to hurt. According to doctors from the National Health Service, a common way that many people damage their ears is by trying to clean their ears with cotton buds or other objects.4
Preventing earache and injury to your ear is just one of the many reasons never to use cotton buds to remove wax from your ears.
Buildup of earwax
Having too much earwax in your ears could cause earache and temporary diminished hearing. According to Dr. Mary Harding on Patient.info, earwax helps to lubricate your ears and usually clears from your ear on its own. However, a buildup of earwax that blocks the ear can become very painful and can be removed using warm olive oil.5
Because your throat and ears are connected, a throat infection often causes sore ears. The National Health Service say that tonsillitis or an abscess at the back of your throat can cause an earache.4 There are many effective home remedies for tonsillitis that can help to stop earache caused by a throat infection.
Tooth decay can cause pain that spreads to your ear and causes an earache. This usually happens when a bacterial infection causes a dental abscess and results in throbbing, intense pain in your gums, teeth and possibly ears.4
Home Remedies for Earache
The best natural treatment for an earache depends on the root cause of the outer, middle or inner ear pain. Please read on to find out how to quickly get rid of an earache and what are the best remedies that you can use.
Olive oil is a great home remedy to get rid of an earache caused by a buildup of earwax in your ear. Olive oil helps to soften the earwax and helps to remove an earwax plug naturally. Olive oil will also help to soothe any infection that is in your ear canal.
According to PubMed Health, using warmed olive oil to remove earwax in the outer ear is just as effective as ear drops. In fact, studies have shown that warmed oils are a very effective way to remove an earwax plug and solve the complications they cause.6
How to use:
To get rid of the ear pain that too much earwax causes, this is what you should do:
- Warm some extra virgin olive oil (make sure it isn’t too hot).
- Using a dropper, put a few drops of olive oil in your blocked ear.
- Keep your head on its side for a few minutes to allow the oil to soften the excess earwax.
- Gently remove the loosened wax from the outer part of your ear using a cotton swab. (Don’t put the swab into your ear canal).
- Use the warm oil remedy a few times a day until all the excess wax is removed and you no longer have an earache. You should also notice that your hearing is slightly improved.
Garlic is a natural antibiotic that can help to stop an earache caused by a bacterial infection. The antimicrobial properties of garlic will also help to kill off any viral or fungal infections in your ear canal. The infection-destroying properties of garlic are due to a compound called allicin.
A study published in the journal Letters in Applied Microbiology reported that garlic extracts can help treat fungal ear infections. In fact, the garlic extract preparations were as effective, if not better, than pharmaceutical treatments for earache.7
Other studies into using garlic for treating conditions that cause ear pain found that remedies which include garlic are effective anti-inflammatory and antibacterial treatments.8
How to use:
You can make your own garlic oil ear drops to cure ear infections by making the following preparation at home:
- Crush two garlic cloves and allow to stand for 10 minutes. This allows the antimicrobial properties of allicin to form.
- Put 5 tablespoons of oil in a pan with the 2 crushed cloves of garlic.
- Warm on a very low heat for 10-15 minutes to let the medicinal properties of the garlic infuse into the oil.
- When the garlic oil remedy has cooled to room temperature, put a few drops in your sore ear. Allow the oil to work for a minute or so to help ease the pain and kill off any infection-causing germs.
- Drain the oil out.
- Repeat 2 times a day until you no longer have painful ears.
The warm oil will also help to dissolve wax that is clogging your ears.
Alternatively, you can make garlic mullein oil – Mullein flowers work very well for ear infections due to their anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. You can find the recipe in my previous article.
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to get relief from ear discomfort is to place a warm compress on your painful ear. Heat helps to increase blood flow to the painful ear which helps to speed up healing and reduce earaches naturally.
Dr. Judith Lynch on Medscape.com says that a warm compress can help to relieve pain and discomfort from infections in the outer ear canal (sometimes called swimmer’s ear). You should also eat soft food to prevent jaw movement making the earache worse and avoid using earplugs or headphones until the infection clears.9
How to use:
It is very easy to use a warm compress to accelerate the healing process and get rid of an earache caused by an ear infection. This is what you should do:
- Soak a clean face cloth in hot (but not boiling) water and squeeze out the excess water
- Hold for 10 minutes on the ear that hurts.
- Or, you can wrap a hot water bottle in a towel and place on the painful ear.
The warm compress will help quicken the healing process and should help to soften any wax buildup in the ear.
Food grade 3% hydrogen peroxide
To get rid of an earache caused by having too much wax in your ears, you can use 3% hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is also a natural antimicrobial agent that can help to remove any germs and dirt from your ear.
Doctors from the Mayo Clinic also recommend hydrogen peroxide as a natural home remedy to remove earwax. All you need is a few drops of 3% hydrogen peroxide in the sore ear to help soften the wax.10
For more information on the benefits of hydrogen peroxide for getting rid of an ear infection and preventing earache, please see my article on how to use hydrogen peroxide for your ears.
Steam inhalation with essential oils
Inhaling steam with essential oils is a great way to naturally clear up respiratory infections that cause earaches. The steam helps the antiseptic properties of essential oils to clear infections in your sinuses, nose, throat, and ear.
The International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences reported that essential oils help treat ear infections. Some of the best essential oils with antimicrobial properties for using on ear infections that cause an earache are:11
How to use:
To help clear up respiratory infections that could be a cause of your earache, please do the following:
- Boil some water and pour it in a heat-proof bowl (don’t use plastic).
- Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil.
- Cover your head with a towel and inhale deeply to soothe the earache and get rid of the infection.
- Repeat 2 times a day until you no longer have painful ears and your infection has gone for good.
You can use extracts from basil to get rid of an earache that has been caused by injury or an infection. Basil has antimicrobial properties that can reduce the infection that causes inflammation in the ear canal.
The Journal of Infectious Diseases reported that basil can be used to treat otitis media. In the study, basil oil placed directly in the ear canal helped to treat up to 85% of ear infections.12
How to use:
To soothe pain in your ear that is the result of an infection, please do the following:
- Mix a few drops of basil oil with a tablespoon of olive oil or coconut oil.
- Apply the basil remedy with a cotton ball around the infected ear and just inside the ear. Take care not to get the oil into your inner ear.
- Repeat 2 times a day to get rid of your earache quicker and promote healing.
Apple cider vinegar
Raw unprocessed apple cider vinegar (ACV) is an effective natural treatment to relieve discomfort from your ears. The acetic acid in ACV helps to balance the pH levels to reduce itching and pain in your ear. Apple cider vinegar is also a natural antiseptic and will help to fight infections in your ear.
The journal Medscape General Medicine reported that vinegar containing acetic acid is effective in curing ear infections. It helped reduce the symptoms of an infection in the middle and outer ear and reduced ear inflammation.13
How to use:
To get rid of an ear infection and reduce an earache with apple cider vinegar, you should make the home remedy as follows:
- Mix equal amounts of raw ACV and water and warm in a pan (don’t overheat).
- Soak a cotton ball in the apple cider vinegar remedy, making sure that it isn’t too hot.
- Plug the cotton ball in your ear and lie on your side to allow the vinegar remedy to fight the infection in your ear.
- Repeat the process a few times a day to get a relief from the discomfort of an earache.
Diluted tea tree oil
Many people have found that the antibacterial properties of tea tree oil have cured their earache that is caused by an infection. Tea tree oil helps to kill off various strains of fungi and bacteria, as well as reducing inflammation.
However, there are conflicting reports on using tea tree oil to cure an earache. For example, the journal Audiology & Neuro-otology found that using tea tree oil for ear infections is probably safe when used diluted and for a short period of time, although further study is needed to establish whether tea tree oil can be used with safety in the treatment of external and middle ear infections.14 However, doctors from WebMD don’t recommend using tea tree oil because it can damage the middle and inner ear canal.15 Doctors from Mayo Clinic advise to avoid adding tea tree oil into the middle ear, as toxicity of the ear has occurred with large doses.18 Therefore always dilute tea tree oil and consult with your doctor before using it inside your ear.
How to use:
Tea tree oil should always be diluted before using it to treat an earache. This is how to make your own tea tree oil solution to use safely in your ear:
- Warm ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil and add a few drops of tea tree oil.
- Using a dropper, put a few drops of the tea tree oil remedy in your affected ear.
- Keep your head tilted to the side for few minutes to allow the oil mixture treat the infection.
- Raise your head and use a cotton ball to wipe the oil that drains from your ear.
- Repeat the process 2 times a day for a couple of days to help your ear heal faster.
Pop your ear
Popping your ear can help to get rid of an earache fast if it has been caused by a change in air pressure. Popping your ear can also relieve a painful ear if it is blocked due to a cold, the flu, or blocked sinuses.
There are many ways to pop your ears and equalize the pressure around in your inner ear. The Mayo Clinic recommends using the Valsalva maneuver to relieve pressure from your ear. You can use the Valsalva maneuver to prevent an earache when landing or taking off on a plane.16
This is what you should do:
- Pinch your nostrils, keep your mouth closed and gently blow your nose.
- This should pop your ears and ease discomfort.
You can find more ways on how to pop your ears if they feel blocked in my article on many natural ways to unpop your ears.
When to See a Doctor
Usually, most types of earache can be cured using natural home remedies. However, if your symptoms persist, you may need to see a doctor. This is especially true if a child has a severe earache or you have signs of a fever or pus or discharge draining from your ears.
Dr. Susan C. Kim on WebMD recommends seeing a doctor for earache if you or a child has the following conditions:17
- The earache is very severe with dizziness or hearing loss.
- A child has an ear infection with a high fever and stiff neck.
- There is redness or swelling behind the ear.
- Home remedies don’t help improve the severity of an earache.
- There is bloody pus draining from the ear.
- There is an object stuck in the ear.
Read my other related articles:
1. Best Ways to Get Water Out of Ears
2. Itchy Ear Canal – Causes and Natural Home Remedies
3. Why You should Never Clean the Inside of Your Ears
4. How to Use Hydrogen Peroxide for Ear Wax Removal and Ear Infection