Sore Throat and Ear Pain: What’s Causing the Discomfort?

Sore Throat and Ear Pain: What’s Causing the Discomfort?

Sore throat and ear pain can bring your day to a grinding halt. The discomfort can become unbearable quickly. Because of that, figuring out what’s causing those conditions and getting them treated fast is a must.

Some of the underlying causes of sore throat and ear pain can be very serious, but others can be treated from home. That’s why it’s important to be able to realize when you can deal with it and when you need to get to the doctor’s office.

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Diagnosing Sore Throat and Ear Pain

Based on your symptoms, you may be able to start narrowing down the root of your pain. Symptoms for sore throat and ear pain include:

  • A dry or scratchy feeling in the back of your throat
  • Pain when you swallow or talk
  • A hoarse voice
  • Redness in the back of your throat
  • White patches on your tonsils
  • Swollen glands
  • Muffled hearing
  • A popping sound in the ear
  • Your ear feeling like it’s full
  • Fluid draining from the ear

Once you have nailed down your issues, you may be able to pinpoint one of the following root causes.

Bacteria and Viruses

Having a bacterial or viral infection often leads to an earache and/or sore throat. That could be anything from the common cold or the flu to something like tonsillitis or strep throat.

If you’re dealing with a cold, you know you can just treat those symptoms with over-the-counter medications. It will just mean a few days of discomfort as the medicine does its job.

When it comes to the flu, you can always go to the doctor to get an antiviral drug to help lessen the symptoms and shorten the illness by a day or two. This underscores the importance of getting your flu shot every year. If you get the shot, it could save you from dealing with all the discomfort that comes along with the virus.

Keep an eye out for white patches on your tonsils if you’re experiencing a sore throat. That could indicate strep throat, which is highly contagious. Go to the doctor immediately so they can confirm if you have strep and then get you a prescription to clear up the condition.

Tooth Infection or Abscess

Believe it or not, an infected tooth could be behind your ear and throat pain. When you have a toothache, the pain from your problem tooth can extend into your jaw and over to your ear. It can also cause swelling in your glands and lead to pain radiating into your throat.

Indicators for this condition would include pain while chewing, tooth sensitivity to heat or cold, swelling in your cheek or face, and even a fever.

Chronic Sinusitis

This is a condition where your sinuses are irritated for three months or more despite getting treatment for it.

The Mayo Clinic says it’s a common condition that impacts the way your mucus usually drains. That will cause a stuffy nose, drainage issues, bad breath, and many others. Since it’s such a large impact on the sinuses, a lot of the time you’ll end up with an earache and sore throat.

There are many underlying causes of chronic sinusitis, so it’s important to see your doctor to get the root cause figured out and treated.


Sometimes the problem is as simple as having breathed in a chemical that you’re not supposed to inhale. Fumes from gas, paint thinner, chlorine, smoke, or cleaning products can irritate your mucous membranes. That can affect your ears and lungs.

If you’re around those irritants or anything else that you could breathe in, try to use proper protective equipment like a mask to filter out the harmful particles that cause the irritation.

Other Possibilities

There are many other factors that could cause an earache and sore throat. For instance, you could just be dealing with seasonal allergies. Things like dust and pollen can irritate your sinuses, causing a stuffy nose and nasal drip. Just take over-the-counter allergy medicine to help get rid of the symptoms.

Acid reflux is another common condition with these symptoms. That’s when stomach acid comes back up into your throat, causing that burning, uncomfortable feeling. It’s also the most common cause of heartburn. A simple antacid can control it.

Getting Rid of the Discomfort

When you’re dealing with pain in your ear or throat you’ll want to at least lessen the discomfort as quickly as possible. There are several ways to get a little relief.

For a sore throat, using cough drops, a numbing spray, or gargling salt water can soothe the scratchiness you’re feeling. You can use that in combination with a pain reliever. If the air is dry in your home, running a humidifier can help keep your nasal passages and throat moist, too.

For those dealing with an earache, putting a few drops of warm olive oil can ease the discomfort. If you don’t have olive oil, try alternating between a cold compress and a warm compress. You’ll swap them out about every 10 minutes to get some relief.

When you go to sleep, try to keep the ear that’s hurting facing upward. You want to make sure it’s not pressed against your pillow so it can drain better.

When to See Your Doctor

If your symptoms don’t clear up in a few days and you’ve been treating them at home, you need to go see your doctor. There are so many issues that could be causing a sore throat and ear pain it’s better to get a checkup to make sure you’re not having those symptoms because of a much more serious issue.

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