Ear Pain and Earache Treatment
In Benicia, Napa and Sonoma
Quick Relief for Ear Pain
Earaches are a common problem that can unfortunately cause a lot of pain and discomfort for you or your kids. An earache might feel like a dull or sharp pain or even a full feeling in the ear, and it can be in one or both ears.
Earaches are usually a sign that something else is wrong, like an infection, injury, or something blocking the ear canal. The pain from earaches can make it hard to sleep, focus, and can even lead to hearing problems if it gets really bad.
Visit a Clinic or Start a Video Visit Now
Understanding why an earache is happening is important so it can be treated properly to avoid any more problems or pain.
If you live or work near our urgent care clinics in Napa, Benicia and Sonoma or are visiting the Wine Country, don’t tough it out or wait for your symptoms to get worse. Our clinics provide a convenient and cost-effective option to treat your earache.
We accept most insurance plans and visits here are significantly less expensive than going to an emergency room. Plus, you’ll usually be seen much more quickly compared to an ER visit.
How We Help
- We accept walk-ins!
- If you can’t come in, get advice with an easy video visit. Then follow-up later at a clinic.
- We take most insurance plans including Medicare and Kaiser.
- No insurance? We offer cash-pay discounts.
- Use your HSA (Health Savings Account) or FSA (Flexible Spending Account).
- We offer an easy online appointment system.
Urgent Care + TeleHealth is managed by Dr. Ian Ahwah, an emergency medicine physician with 25 years of clinical experience treating patients at urgent care and in area emergency rooms. Our doctors, medical providers and support staff treat you with dignity and protect your privacy.
Brittany Bellows, PA, Clinical Manager
Ear Pain FAQ
Dealing with earaches and infections can be stressful, but knowing what to look for and how to act can make all the difference. When it comes to ear issues, recognizing the symptoms is the first step. From there, knowing when to seek urgent care can make all the difference. Whether it’s a persistent ache, noticeable hearing loss, or symptoms like fever and drainage, don’t hesitate to get professional advice.
When are common symptoms of ear aches in children?
Common Symptoms of Ear Aches in Children
- Ear Pain: This is often the first and most noticeable symptom in children. Little kids might tug or pull at their ears to show discomfort.
- Fever: A low-grade fever often accompanies an ear infection in children, signaling the body’s fight against infection.
- Irritability: Kids might become unusually cranky or inconsolable, especially when lying down, as this position can exacerbate ear pain.
- Hearing Difficulties: Fluid buildup can interfere with sound conduction, leading to temporary hearing loss.
- Drainage: Some children experience a discharge of fluid or pus from the affected ear.
- Loss of Appetite: Pain and general discomfort can make eating or drinking less appealing to kids.
- Frequent Infections: Children are more susceptible to recurrent ear infections, partly due to their immature immune systems and smaller eustachian tubes.
- Speech and Developmental Delays: Chronic or frequent ear infections in children can potentially lead to delays in speech and development if left untreated.
Common Symptoms of Ear Aches in Adults
- Ear Pain: Adults also experience pain, but it is usually more localized and less likely to result in general irritability.
- Hearing Loss: Temporary hearing impairment is common due to fluid accumulation.
- Drainage: Drainage of clear or pus-like fluid may occur.
- Ear Fullness: Adults often describe a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear.
- Dizziness: This is more common in adults and could indicate complications.
- Complications: Adults are more prone to complications like hearing loss, tinnitus, or, in severe cases, an infection spreading to adjacent areas.
- Less Likely to be Recurrent: While kids might “age out” of frequent infections, adults who get ear infections often have other chronic issues that predispose them to this condition.
What are the different types of ear infections?
Knowing the type of ear infection helps in treating it right. There are three types you should know about:
- Otitis Media: This is the most common and occurs in the middle ear, usually following a cold or respiratory infection. Kids are more likely to get this. (1)
- Otitis Externa: Also known as ‘swimmer’s ear’, this affects the outer ear. It often happens after swimming, but can also occur from inserting objects like cotton swabs into the ear. (2)
- Otitis Interna: Also called ‘labyrinthitis’, this is rare but serious. It affects the inner ear and can cause problems with balance and hearing.
Different types of infections have different symptoms. For example, a swimmer’s ear might cause itchiness and redness in the ear, while otitis media might lead to more generalized symptoms like fever.
What is Swimmer's Ear?
Swimmer’s ear isn’t like a typical ear infection. It usually happens when water stays trapped in your ear after swimming which creates a damp environment where bacteria can grow. It often starts with itchiness and can progress to pain, redness, and even pus drainage. You might feel like your ear is “full” or have difficulty hearing. It’s usually treated with specialized ear drops. Although the condition is commonly associated with swimming, it can also occur from frequent showering, humid weather, or even using in-ear earbuds for extended periods. (3)
The symptoms can vary from mild to severe, including:
- Itching in the ear canal
- Redness inside the ear
- Mild discomfort that worsens when pulling on the earlobe
- Fluid drainage
- Hearing impairment due to blockage of the ear canal
In more severe cases, you might experience:
- Intense pain that may extend to the neck, face, or side of the head
- Swelling of the affected ear
Who is at risk for swimmer's ear?
- Swimmers, especially those in non-chlorinated pools
- People in humid climates
- Individuals who use hearing aids or earbuds
- Those with skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis that can crack the skin of the ear canal
Can ear wax blockage cause ear pain?
Excessive earwax can create a blockage in the ear canal, leading to pressure and pain. It can also trap bacteria, which heightens the risk of infection. When compacted earwax isn’t removed, it can become hard, further obstructing the ear and causing discomfort or aching pain. (4)
Some people naturally produce more earwax than others. Other factors contributing to earwax buildup can include:
- Narrow or oddly shaped ear canals
- Use of hearing aids or earbuds
- Frequent use of earplugs
- Old age, as earwax tends to get harder and less mobile
- Skin conditions like eczema
Earwax buildup can lead to several uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Hearing loss or muffled hearing
- Ear pain or pressure
- Ringing or buzzing in the ear (tinnitus)
- Vertigo or dizziness
- An uncomfortable “full” sensation in the ear
How are ear aches treated?
The first step in treating an ear infection is proper diagnosis, which is performed by a provider at Urgent Care + TeleHealth. We’ll use a specialized tool known as an “otoscope” to inspect the ear canal and eardrum. This allows the doctor to identify the type of infection and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
- Antibiotics: If bacteria cause your ear infection, you’ll likely be prescribed antibiotics. Please be sure that you or your child completes the entire course of the antibiotic treatment, even if symptoms improve before the medication is finished.
- Pain Management: Ear infections can be painful, regardless of your age. Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen are often recommended for symptom relief. (5)
In certain cases, you may also be prescribed ear drops that contain medication to treat the infection or anesthetics to alleviate pain.
For children who have frequent ear infections, a doctor might suggest an intervention such as inserting small tubes in the ears to facilitate fluid drainage. This procedure, although surgical, is typically straightforward and effective in preventing recurrent infections.
When Should You Visit Urgent Care for an Ear Infection?
While ear infections are common, the pain can be severe. It’s a good idea to get a quick and thorough evaluation at Urgent Care + TeleHealth where you can be seen promptly (even without an appointment) and get the necessary treatment to help you feel better fast.
- Severity of Symptoms
- Intense Pain: If you or your child is experiencing ear pain that over-the-counter pain medications aren’t alleviating, it’s time to head to urgent care.
- High Fever: A fever accompanying an ear infection is a sign that the body is fighting off an infection. Come on in so we can evaluate you.
- Failure of Home Treatment
If you’ve tried over-the-counter treatments and home remedies for a couple of days and have not seen any improvement, it’s time to get treatment by visiting urgent care.
- Unusual Symptoms
If you notice additional symptoms like fluid drainage from the ear, dizziness, or hearing loss, these could be signs of a more serious problem requiring immediate medical attention.
- Inaccessible Primary Care
Sometimes your primary care physician may not be available for weeks. In such instances, especially if symptoms are worsening, urgent care can provide immediate treatment. We accept most insurance plans and offer self-pay discounts for those paying with HSA, FSA or debit cards.
- Small Children
For infants and small children who may not be able to communicate their symptoms effectively, any signs of an ear infection like persistent crying, pulling at the ears, or sleep disturbances, should warrant an urgent care visit.
If you experience severe dizziness, balance issues, or sluggishness together with an ear infection, please seek urgent medical attention as these could signify more serious conditions like an inner ear infection. (6)
- Multiple Symptoms
Ear infections often accompany other upper respiratory symptoms. Urgent care can provide comprehensive treatment for all symptoms if you have an ear infection and severe sore throat, sinus pressure, or difficulty breathing.
How can I prevent an ear infection?
Prevention is always better than a cure. Here are some tips to reduce the risk of ear infections in kids:
- Dry Those Ears: Always dry your child’s ears after they swim or bathe.
- No Smoking: Tobacco smoke can increase the risk of ear infections. Make sure no one smokes around your child.
- Wash Hands: Teach your kids the importance of handwashing to prevent the spread of germs.
- Vaccines: Some vaccines can protect against the types of bacteria that cause ear infections. (7)
- Danishyar A, Ashurst JV. Acute Otitis Media. [Updated 2023 Apr 15]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470332/
- Medina-Blasini Y, Sharman T. Otitis Externa. [Updated 2023 Jul 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556055/
- Klein J. O. (2015). Otitis Externa, Otitis Media, and Mastoiditis. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 767–773.e1. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-1-4557-4801-3.00062-X
- National Guideline Centre (UK). Hearing loss in adults: assessment and management. London: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE); 2018 Jun. (NICE Guideline, No. 98.) 10, Management of earwax. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536541/
- Jamal, A., Alsabea, A., Tarakmeh, M., & Safar, A. (2022). Etiology, Diagnosis, Complications, and Management of Acute Otitis Media in Children. Cureus, 14(8), e28019. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.28019
- Szmuilowicz, Jacob, and Randall Young. “Infections of the Ear.” Emergency medicine clinics of North America vol. 37,1 (2019): 1-9. doi:10.1016/j.emc.2018.09.001
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. How can middle ear infections in children be prevented? 2009 Jun 30 [Updated 2019 May 9]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279382/
What They Say
“Friendly and efficient staff! Made an appointment the night before, easy process. Good location too.“
“I was greeted promptly and taken back in a timely manner. Both the assistant and the PA were friendly and professional. I’m very happy with the care I received.“
“Really nice people there and very professional services. I highly recommend!“