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Earache which is also known as otalgia or otitis meda is a sharp or dull temporary or permanent pain in the ear. It is more common among children and usually clears up within 24 hours. A earache can also cause a toothache.

The ear consists of 3 parts - the outer ear,  middle ear and the inner ear. The outer ear collects sounds. The middle ear is a cavity  separated from the outer ear by the ear drum, to which the three ear bones are attached. The pressure in the middle ear and outer ear are the same, allowing the vibrations due to sound to be transmitted to the brain.  The middle ear is connected to the nasal passages through the Eustachian tube. This tube drains fluid from the middle ear  and is shorter and more horizontal in children.

When a person has a cold, allergy or respiratory infections, the Eustachian tube is blocked due to inflammation and secretions consisting of pus and mucus. Since the fluid from the middle ear cannot be drained, it accumulates and causes pain. It can cause temporary hearing loss. In very small children and infants, ear pain may also be due to water or soap entering  the ear. Earache is also caused by earwax. Swimming can cause infection of the outer ear.

Usually earache reduces after 24 to 48 hours. Medication for the infection earache will bring quick relief. Home remedies include taking painkillers and eardrops. Chewing gum may reduce the pain and the pressure on the ear.

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