Sore Behind Ear: Causes, Treatment, and More

Do not panic if you are experiencing sore behind ear symptoms. It can be prevented and treated. Read more about it here.

Sore behind ear

The sore behind ear pain you are experiencing is most commonly caused by a direct infection in the mastoid bone which is located behind your ears. This could happen if you have an ear infection that is not treated and symptoms like pain behind and inside the ear could be experienced. There is nothing to worry about as Mastoiditis or the soreness could be treated by medication and antibiotics but some people would have this recurring issue and it may lead to serious effects like brain abscess, infections, and blood clots. But how would you know if it’s a serious infection or just a common sore behind the ear issue?

One thing that you should know is that soreness and pain are most common in kids and children but adults could be affected as well. When the mastoid bone- the temporal bone back part of the skull- is inflamed or infected, that’s when an inner infection of the ear occurs. You should prevent the spread of the infection outside of the mastoid cells as serious health issues may arise if not treated. According to research and several studies, there are 4 cases for every 100,000 children in every 5 years and it is most common for the young aged 12 months to 2 years old. In this read, we will talk more about what it is, symptoms and causes, diagnosis and treatments as well as tips on how to prevent it in the future. 

Sore Behind Ear: Causes and Symptoms

As mentioned, the sore and pain you feel behind your ears could be a possible infection of the mastoid cells. Imagine the mastoid bone as that of a structure of a honeycomb. It is full of mastoid cells and if it is infected, it must be prevented. But how will you know that you are experiencing it? What are its most common symptoms?

  • The discomfort of soreness behind or inside the ear
  • Swelling in the area just behind your ears causing the ear to stick out
  • Tenderness or redness in the ear’s behind
  • Fever
  • Hearing loss on the inflamed ear
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Facial muscles are weakened
  • Tiredness
  • Spinning sensation or dizziness
  • Swelling just behind your eyes
  • Ear discharge

Those are just the common symptoms that you can experience if you are having mastoiditis or soreness at the back of your ear. Now, it’s not enough to just know how it’s experienced but it’s a must to unravel the why. And yes, the known cause of pain and soreness is an inner infection in the ear that is not treated.

It can also be caused by the abnormal growth collection of the skin cells inside the ears which prevent its natural growth is called cholesteatoma.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If the pain is severe and intense, it could interrupt your day to day activities and you must visit your doctor right away to have it checked before it could lead to more serious complications.  Your doctor will do an ear canal examination and will do a visualization of the eardrum. They will also check the middle ear structures. This could be done through any or all of the tests below:

  • Skull x-ray
  • CT Scan in the temporal bone
  • Culture swabbing from any fluids produced by the ear
  • Spinal tap or lumbar puncture
  • MRI Scan in the head and ear
  • Hearing test
  • Blood tests as well as a complete blood count and white blood cell count. 

Once the tests are completed, a diagnosis could be given and the proper treatment could be recommended to prevent any further infections and to also ease the pain and soreness.  Although this could not be completely treated at home, your doctor must provide the medicines that are needed to treat the infection so that it would not spread out and cause more complications.  The treatments at home are aimed to reduce the ear infection symptoms and these are the following. 

  • Fever reducers and pain relievers that are over the counter. You can take Advil, Tylenol, or Motrin for the sore behind ear pain and reduce inflammation. (Note: Do not allow children or teenagers or children as it could lead to a serious but rare disease called Reye’s syndrome.)
  • Wear earplugs when showing or swimming so that water could be kept out of the ears. It could also prevent the worsening of the ear infection.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Avoid traveling in the air as it may cause more pain in the ear area. 
  • Rest.
  • Put a warm compress on the infected ear. This may help in soothing the pain. 

To avoid any further complications, early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment must be done. There are also cases where the antibiotics are applied intravenously or through an IV. If it is not cured, your doctor could advise surgery to drain the water trapped in the middle ear. Although mastoiditis is not fatal, it could lead to serious complications below:

  • Bone infection
  • Permanent hearing loss
  • Meningitis
  • Inflammation of the nerves of the inner ear
  • Blood clots
  • Nerve facial palsy


They say that the best cure is preventing it from even happening. We have already discussed how the sore behind ear pain could interrupt daily activities and may also cause life-threatening complications. What better way to cure it than to prevent it first hand, right? Here are some of the tips that you can do to avoid any kind of ear infection moving forward. 

  • Do not forget to thoroughly wash your hands so that the spread of flu viruses and colds could be prevented. 
  • Make sure your kids get the yearly flu vaccine. Children that are vaccinated have fewer ear infections and complications compared to those children who are not vaccinated. 
  • Avoid exposing your children to second-hand smoking. There is research linking those children who are exposed to smokers getting more cases of ear infections than those kids who don’t have any direct exposure. 
  • Keep your kids away from other kids who have the flu or cold. 

The sore behind ear pain that you are experiencing could be an ear infection that needs to be addressed promptly. Neglecting this for a long time could lead to serious infection and complications that’s why it’s a must to always be keen and observant of how your body is feeling. Mastoiditis or ear infection is common for kids and children but it could also be experienced by an adult regardless of age. The best treatment to avoid having is to follow preventive measures as it’s always best to be safe than sorry.

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