Symptoms of Otalgia

Otalgia: Ear pain, pain referred to the ears - The 5 “T”s

Otalgia is the medical term for ear pain. There are many reasons for one or both ears to be painful. Ear pain may be caused by problems with the ear itself, such as infections of the ear canal or of the middle ear.

However in some cases the ear is painful but the ear is normal when examined. In these cases, the ear pain is called referred pain – meaning that the pain is caused by a problem in a structure close by, but the pain is felt in the ear. Pain referred to the ear may arise from the teeth, the temporomandibular joint (the jaw joints), the tongue, the tonsils or the throat (known as the 5 “T”s!).

How do we evaluate otalgia?

People with otalgia are initially evaluated by taking a thorough medical history and by performing an examination of the ears, the neck and the upper airway, including endoscopy. Standard endoscopy of the throat is called laryngoscopy, in which an endoscope (a slim tube with a camera on the end)is passed through the noseusing local anaesthetic to examine the airway. Additional investigations such as CT scanning, and/or MRI scanning may be required.

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