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Treatment for Earache in Adults, Explained

Medically reviewed by Janie-Vi Villamor Ismael-Gorospe, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Apr 20, 2022

    Treatment for Earache in Adults, Explained

    Earache or ear pain, also referred to as otalgia, can occur due to various ear infections. However, not all cases of earache is connected to an infection. Symptoms of ear conditions like ear pain may also indicate underlying medical conditions that are not related to the ear. Treatment for earache may vary depending on its location. 

    Ear pain in adults can affect one or both ears. The primary cause behind ear pain are blockages in the passageway, known as the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the ear. Hence, if home remedies do not help improve earache in a few days, consulting a doctor is essential to treat the underlying cause of the pain.

    Now, let’s move on to discussing medical and home treatment for earache.

    Medical treatment for earache in adults

    The available treatment options for primary and secondary conditions of earache are as below:

    • Oral medications like antibiotics and decongestants
    • Eardrops like antibiotics, anti-steroidal nasal solution, corticosteroid eardrops, or a combination of these, as per the type and severity of the ear condition 
    • Surgery like myringotomy 
    • Specific treatments can be advised for the health conditions of the joints, gastroesophageal reflux disease, dental caries, malignant conditions, and coronary artery diseases.
    • Rare conditions of secondary otalgia like temporal arteritis may require steroids.
    • Medical conditions of secondary otalgia that are not severe are usually treated with analgesics, followed by a re-evaluation after about one month. 

    To be more specific, treatment for earache differs based on the location of the infection in the ear canal. Treatment for earache in the middle ear varies to some extent from the one for the outer ear.

    Medical treatment for infections in the outer ear

    • The outer ear has to be cleaned and then anti-inflammatory or anti-microbial ointments can be applied.
    • Antibiotics for bacterial infections, as diagnosed by a doctor.
    • If the underlying cause of ear pain in adults in the outer ear is viral infection, treating the irritation usually leads to the infection subsiding on its own. Specialized treatment may be necessary based on the type of virus that has caused the infection.

    Medical treatment for infections in the middle ear 

    • OTC pain relievers
    • Decongestants  
    • Antibiotics for oral intake and application on the affected area
    • Antihistamine
    • Nasal steroids
    • Autoinsufflation, a procedure that cleans the eustachian tube and adjusts the pressure within the ear. This can be done at home by closing the nostrils between your index finger and thumb, keeping your mouth closed, and then exhaling slowly. The air that you inhale during this process rids the tube of debris or mucus.

    treatment for earache

    Home treatment for earache in adults

    The following are some types of natural treatment for earache:

    Electric heating pad

    An electric heating pad reduces inflammation and pain in the ear. Make sure that the heating pad is bearable but comforting to the ears. Do not fall asleep with a hot pack on your ears.

    Children should not be allowed to use it without the supervision of an adult. Using it for about 15 to 20 minutes should do the trick.

    Cold compress

    A cold compress or cold pack can also be used to control earache. Do not use ice cubes without wrapping them in a clean cloth or towel and then hold them on the affected ear for about 15 to 20 minutes.

    You can also alternate between hot and cold packs, 20 minutes of the hot pack, and then 20 minutes of a cold pack. 

    Massage for treating earache

    Massaging the muscles around the affected ear, neck, and jaws may help. Start with a downward motion from the ears towards the neck. This can help in draining excess fluid that may have accumulated inside your ear canal, controlling pain caused due to it. Make sure you do it gently to avoid causing any damage to the ears. 


    The anti-microbial properties of garlic are recognized for fighting infections. It cannot be considered as a substitute for prescription antibiotics. However, it can be used as a complementary therapy along with the mainline treatment to accelerate the process of relieving pain.

    It can also prevent the risk of aggravation of the pain. A clove of garlic every day can be of great help. Alternatively, you can heat two to three cloves of garlic along with 2 tbsp of sesame seeds or mustard oil until they turn brown. Strain this mixture and use a drop of this solution in your ear daily. 


    Onions are also known for controlling pain and fighting infection, owing to their anti-inflammatory properties. Again, like garlic, this is not a substitute for medical treatment. Instead, you can use a combination of your prescription medications along with onions for quicker pain relief.

    Microwave an onion for one or two minutes. Strain the liquid and use a few drops of this solution in the affected ear every day. You can keep this solution in your ears for 10 minutes and then tilt your head to drain it off. You can repeat this step to enhance the effectiveness of this solution. 

    Check your sleeping position

    Position your head higher than the rest of your body. Place your head on two or three pillows so that it is at a higher level. Turn to the opposite side of the ear that has been infected.

    For instance, if the earache is on the left, lie down on your right side. This ensures that you do not exert more pressure on the affected ear, thus, controlling the risk of worsening the ear condition.

    However, placing your head a few inches above the rest of the body may not be sufficient for reducing pressure. Do this only after seeking the opinion of a doctor. 

    Sucking movements for treating earache

    The sucking action may help in controlling the pressure in the eustachian tubes, keeping earache under control. You can suck on hard candy or simply suck on air several times throughout the day as a pain relief for ear pain. 

    Key Takeaway

    Put the above practices into good use every day and you can expect to feel considerable relief from your ear pain if the condition is mild or moderate. If these tips regarding home treatment for earache do not bear results in a couple of days, do not delay. Consult a doctor immediately.

    Learn more about Ear, Nose and Throat conditions, here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Janie-Vi Villamor Ismael-Gorospe, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Apr 20, 2022

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