Headache Behind the Ear

Discover what's causing you pain and how to get relief
Last update on Mar, 22, 2024

What may be causing you to experience headaches behind the ear?

No one likes dealing with headaches, but did you know that the location of the pain can tell you a lot about what's causing it?

A headache behind the ear, for instance, may indicate an underlying health issue (like an infection) or indicate stress. In this article, we'll discuss the possible causes of why you're experiencing headaches behind the ear, symptoms to watch out for, and how to alleviate the pain.

Headache vs. Sharp Pain Behind the Ear

First, let's first differentiate between headaches and sharp pain.

  • A headache is a continuous, dull pain or pressure that you feel throughout your head or in one particular area (i.e., behind the ears, in front of the ears, in front of your temples, etc.).
  • A sharp pain is described as a sudden and intense pain. It usually comes out of nowhere but may not last for very long.

Headaches are caused by a range of factors, such as stress, tension or allergies while sharp pain is usually caused by an injury, trauma or infection.

If you are experiencing a headache or sharp pain behind the ear, it is important to distinguish between the two so that you can provide your clinician with an accurate description of your symptoms. Doing so will allow your provider to get to the root cause of the issue.

Why Do I Have a Headache Behind My Ear?

Experiencing pain or discomfort behind the ear could indicate a range of conditions. These may include:

Tension headaches

A tension headache is a mild to moderate pain in the head and neck region. As the name suggests, it's typically caused by muscle tension, which is often triggered by stress, anxiety, or poor posture. 


Migraines cause you to experience a throbbing or pulsing pain that can be moderate to severe in intensity. In addition to causing pain behind the ears, migraines can also cause sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, or vomiting.

Common migraine triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes
  • Missing meals
  • Changes to your sleeping habits
  • Spending hours in front of your computer screen


Ear infections

An ear infection can occur when bacteria, viruses, or other germs invade and infect any part of the ear, including the outer, middle, or inner ear.

When the middle ear is infected, it's called Otitis Media, while an infection of the outer ear is known as Otitis Externa (aka swimmer's ear).

Both types of ear infections can lead to varying degrees of pain and irritation, ranging from mild to severe and may be constant or intermittent. The pain may also spread to surrounding areas, such as the neck, jaw, and behind the ear, causing further discomfort and discomfort.

TMJ disorder

TMJ disorder, or temporomandibular joint disorder, is a condition that affects the jaw joint and muscles that control jaw movement. It causes pain and discomfort in the jaw joint and surrounding areas, including the ears, head, face, and neck.

Symptoms of TMJ disorder can include:

  • Clicking or popping sounds when opening or closing the mouth
  • Difficulty opening or closing the mouth
  • Aching pain in or around the ear
  • Swelling on the side of the face
  • Facial pain

Though TMJ will most likely cause you to feel pain in front of your ears, you may also feel pressure or discomfort behind the ears.

Occipital neuralgia

This neurological condition causes pain in the back of the head and neck, which then extends to the sides of your head and behind the ears.

Dental Issues

It's worth noting that dental problems, such as a tooth abscess or impacted wisdom teeth may also cause pain in the head and neck region, including the area behind your ears.

If you're experiencing a headache behind the ear and think it may have something to do with your dental health and hygiene, consult with your dentist to rule out any underlying teeth or gum issues that may be causing the pain.

Pain in Head Behind Ear: Symptoms

Headaches behind the ear can manifest in several ways, including:

  • Dull or sharp pain behind the ear
  • Pain that radiates to the temple area or the back of the head
  • Tenderness or sensitivity in the area behind the ear
  • Nausea or dizziness
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Fever or ear discharge (in the case of ear infection)

Home Remedies

Dealing with a headache behind the ear? A few home remedies may help you find relief, depending on the root cause of the pain.

  • If you're experiencing a headache behind the ear due to tension, stress, or not enough sleep, consider practicing relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing.
  • Additionally, practice maintaining good posture and avoiding activities that can strain the neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Applying a warm or cold compress to the affected area may also help you experience some relief.
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen may also help but remember these provide only temporary relief, and they won't treat any underlying issues.

When to See a Doctor

If you're experiencing recurring or intense headaches behind your ear, you'll need to consult with a hearing care provider near you. Do so immediately if you notice other symptoms like a high fever, discharge from your ear, or any hearing loss.

Never ignore these symptoms as they could indicate a more serious underlying condition that requires medical attention.

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