An earache can be frightening, especially when children are affected. Note that there are more than 15 million doctor visits for earache treatment in the U.S. each year. Although most earaches resolve on their own without treatment earaches should not be taken lightly.
Otitis media (involvement in the middle ear behind the eardrum), swollen or blocked Eustachian tube, or otitis externa (swimmer’s ear), are the most common causes of ear pain. Infection or inflammation is the usual cause for this pain.
- Pain, ranging in severity from mild to excruciating
- Loss of hearing or a clicking or popping sound when moving the jaw
- Feeling of fullness or pulling sensation at or around the ear or jaw
- Itching in the ear
- Discharge (fluid or pus) from the ear canal
- Redness or swelling of the outer ear
- Fever, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting
- General feeling of unwellness or irritability
- With children, this and/or fever may be the only obvious signs
Symptoms which linger or worsen can lead to serious problems and should be referred to a knowledgeable medical provider, as should repeated incidents of earache.
Not all earaches call for intensive treatment. For instance, simple earwax buildup is a common cause of ear discomfort, apparent hearing loss, or pain.
Antibiotics typically have been prescribed for virtually all ear infections, particularly for children. Antibiotic overuse for infections that usually clear up on their own, combined with recent evidence that antibiotics have little overall effect on the course of most ear infections, is bringing this approach into question.
Repeated administration of antibiotics to babies and young children is known to weaken their digestive systems and lower resistance to future infectious illnesses.
Where a bacterial infection is confirmed in adults, a course of antibiotics often is the most sensible approach.
Ear tube surgery often is recommended for children suffering from chronic middle-ear infections. The long-term benefit of this procedure also is being questioned today.
Acupuncture’s Role in Earache Treatment
The immune system plays the primary role in clearing most earaches. Clearly, the acknowledged strengths of acupuncture in helping local circulation, in clearing energy blockages that may be hindering the immune system, in reducing inflammation and reducing muscle tension makes acupuncture an ideal partner with your medical provider to address this condition most effectively.
These strengths of acupuncture also are discussed in our earlier blog entries on Acupuncture for Children and Acupuncture for Pain.
On a Lighter Note
It’s not commonly known in the West that acupuncture is a regular veterinary practice in China. A news report in 2013 related how successful acupuncture treatments for earache were given to a Sumatran tiger in an Israeli safari park after other treatments proved ineffective.