Why Do My Ears Hurt When I Swallow?

Learn what might be causing ear pain and how to find relief
Last update on Mar, 22, 2024

Ear Pain When Swallowing: Causes, Relief, and When to Seek Help

Have you ever experienced ear pain when swallowing? If yes, then you may be wondering what's causing it and how to find relief.

The truth is that our ears, throat, and nose have a unique interrelationship. So, when one area is experiencing an issue, the other areas often feel the repercussions.

In this article, we'll explore a few common reasons why we experience ear pain when swallowing, what we can do to help alleviate the discomfort and when it's time to seek medical help.

5 Causes of Ear Pain When Swallowing

Humans are known to swallow up to 3,000 times a day. So, it's easy to understand how a sudden pain while swallowing can be disruptive. The first step to relieve such ear pain is to identify the root cause of the problem.

So, why does my ear hurt when I swallow, you ask? Let's review a few common causes.

Middle Ear Infection

Whenever you swallow, your eustachian tubes release pressure. These tubes are canals that connect the middle ear to the upper throat and nasal cavity. They play an essential role in regulating the pressure in your ear.

If your ear is infected, the release of pressure can cause significant pain and discomfort. The reason? The infection disrupts the normal functioning of the eustachian tubes, making it harder for them to regulate pressure properly. 


When you have an allergic reaction, whether it's from pet dander, dust, or hay fever, your immune system responds by causing inflammation and producing excess mucus in the throat.

This can result in changes to the pressure in the ear, resulting in eustachian tube dysfunction and discomfort in the ear.

Throat Infection

A throat infection, also known as pharyngitis, is usually caused by a viral infection, such as the common cold, but it can also be caused by a bacterial infection, such as strep throat.

When you have a throat infection, you may experience symptoms such as a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, fever, headache, and swollen lymph nodes. It is also possible for the pain to radiate to the ear when you swallow. 

Sinus Infection

Sinus infections can lead to pressure changes within the head and ears, causing a sharp pain when you swallow. This discomfort often occurs due to inflammation of the sinuses, which can also cause congestion, headaches, and fatigue. 

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder

TMJ disorder is a condition that can cause a range of symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and tenderness in the jaw, ear, and neck.

This condition is often characterized by difficulty in jaw movement and can cause discomfort when chewing, speaking, or even just opening the mouth. In some cases, the pain can also worsen when swallowing, making it difficult to eat or drink.

If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Finding Relief from Ear Pain

Experiencing ear pain when swallowing can prevent you from drinking, eating, or even sleeping. To help you find relief, we've compiled a few medical and home remedies to consider.

Remember to always consult with your primary care provider before trying a new medication or if your condition lasts more than a week or worsens.

Medical Treatments for Ear Pain When Swallowing


If your ear pain is the result of an infection (whether in the middle ear, throat, or nose), your doctor may need to prescribe antibiotics.

The type of antibiotic prescribed will depend on the severity of the infection and its location but commonly prescribed antibiotics for middle ear infections include amoxicillin, azithromycin, and clarithromycin. 

Ear Drops

Ear drops are often used to treat a variety of ear conditions in the external ear canal. They help reduce pain and inflammation and promote healing.

Remember to follow any instructions from your provider, as improper use of ear drops can lead to further complications.

Home Remedies for Ear Pain When Swallowing

If anibiotics or ear drops are not nessecary, there are also a few quick home remedies that you can try to find some relief from ear paid when swallowing.





Warm Compress

Applying a warm compress (such as a washcloth, towel, or heating pad) to the affected ear may help relieve pain and inflammation.


Saltwater Gargle

Gargling with warm salt water is the oldest trick in the book. That's because salt water is a natural antiseptic that can help reduce inflammation in the throat.

The salt in the water draws out excess fluid from the tissues in the throat and can break up mucus and other secretions while flushing out bacteria and other germs that may be causing the sore throat.



Drink Plenty of Water

Another old trick but just as effective is drinking plenty of fluids to help thin mucus and reduce inflammation in the throat.
Woman drinking water


Now let's answer some frequent questions you may have regarding ear pain when swallowing:

Q: Why do my ears hurt on one side when I swallow?

A: If you're experiencing pain in one ear when you swallow, it may be due to an infection or inflammation in the ear or throat on that side.

Q: Why does my ear hurt down to my throat?

A: If you're experiencing pain in your ear that seems to be spreading down to your throat, it may be a sign of an infection in your eustachian tube. When the tube becomes blocked or congested, fluid can accumulate in the middle ear, causing pressure changes that can lead to pain, discomfort, and even temporary hearing loss

Q: Why does my ear hurt when I swallow or yawn?

A: Swallowing or yawning can cause sudden pressure changes in the ear, which may lead to discomfort or pain if you have an underlying condition like an infection or allergies.

Q: Why does my ear hurt when I chew?

A:  One possible explanation is that you may have a problem with your temporomandibular joint, which connects your jawbone to your skull.

Another possible reason could be an infection in your ear canal. It's best to consult with a medical professional to determine the specific cause of your ear pain to ensure you get the best treatment for relief.

Seek help for ear pain

Ear pain when you swallow can be caused by several factors, but it can be managed with proper treatment and care. If you're experiencing severe or persistent ear pain, it's essential to see a doctor to determine the underlying cause and receive care.

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