Inner ear pain can be hard to ignore and can be devastating to a person’s hearing or balance. Inner ear pain describes pain felt deep within the ear — in the labyrinth or bone, the cochlea or vestibular system. This excruciating pain is caused by a bacterial or viral infection or can be a symptom of a more serious disease. Persons suffering inner ear problems should seek the help of a qualified medical professional.
Infections of the inner ear region are typically viral. The viral infection can be the result of a virus affecting other parts of the body, like mononucleosis. In some cases, a viral inner ear infection is isolated. Viral inner ear infections commonly affect the labyrinth of the ear or the vestibulo-cochlear nerve that connects the ear to the brain.
Ear pain caused by a viral infection is usually accompanied by other symptoms. Vertigo, a loss of balance, dizziness, and problems hearing or seeing can also result from an inner ear infection. Some people with inner ear infections experience nausea and a ringing noise in the ear. These symptoms range from mild to severe and not every person experiences every symptom.
Bacterial infections of the inner ear are less common. The symptoms are identical to those of a viral ear infection. Only a doctor can differentiate between the two with testing and a physical examination. An earache felt deep within the ear can also be migrating from the middle ear, where infections are more common.
In addition to viral and bacterial infections, pain can also radiate to the inner ear region from your teeth, jaw or sinus cavities. A condition called mastoiditis, which is an infection of the bone directly behind the ear, can cause extreme inner ear pain. Individuals with blocked Eustachian tubes — the tubes that drain the ear — experience a sensation of pressure and may hear fluid in the ear along with feeling inner ear pain.
Chronic inner ear pain is sometimes a symptom of a long-term disease or illness. Individuals may be suffering from lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple sclerosis. Cancerous growths and lesions can also cause inner ear pain.
The treatment for inner ear pain varies with the cause. Treatment options include but are not limited to medication, hot and cold packs and surgery. A doctor will prescribe the best course of action to treat the cause and a course of pain relief appropriate to the level of pain and severity of the situation.