Read below about pain behind the ear, including causes and common questions. Or get a personalized analysis of your pain behind the ear from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Pain Behind the Ear Symptoms

Most people think of ear pain as occurring deep within the ear, and indeed, that's often the case. However, the area behind the ear can also be vulnerable to painful ailments. Whether the pain is superficial or deep within, it can be bothersome and make daily activities like chewing difficult. In certain cases, hearing may also be impacted.

Other symptoms sometimes associated with pain behind the ear include:

Pain Behind the Ear Causes Overview

Directly behind the ear is a bony structure called the mastoid. More superficially located are nerves, blood vessels and lymph nodes. Problems with any of these components may cause pain in the region. Nearby areas like the jaw joint, mouth or even the ear itself can also lead to pain behind the ear symptoms. As there are many potential causes, a thorough examination by a healthcare professional can help point to a cause more directly.

Infectious causes:

  • Swimmer's ear: Also called an outer ear infection or acute otitis externa, this usually occurs after getting water in the ear and may be associated with ear discharge and fever.
  • Middle ear infection: Also called otitis media, an infection occurs behind the eardrum, frequently along with a cold or the flu.
  • Mastoiditis: This is a dangerous infection of the bone behind the ear that usually occurs from the spread of an untreated ear infection.

Dental causes:

  • Abscess: A collection of infected material in the mouth, usually from untreated tooth decay, can cause pain that is referred behind the ear.
  • Impacted teeth: People who do not have their wisdom teeth removed can experience pain if the teeth do not erupt normally. This can also happen to children getting their other adult teeth.
  • Jaw joint dysfunction: The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), located close to the ear, can be painfully strained or misaligned.
  • Jaw clenching: Some people clench their jaw when nervous, while others do so while asleep. This leads to stress on the jaw that can be painful.
  • Teeth grinding: This can also occur overnight and will lead to painful sensations around the jaw.

Other causes:

  • Swollen lymph nodes: Your body stores immune cells in lymph nodes, including some located behind the ear. They can become painful and swollen during an infection, or less commonly, because of an autoimmune disease or cancer.
  • Cyst: Sometimes a buildup of material can occur under the skin, leaving a bump that may be uncomfortable.
  • Nerve pain: The nerves that line your skull, including the area behind your ear, can become painfully inflamed in some conditions.
  • Wax buildup: Excess wax in the ear canal can be uncomfortable, and some people may feel pain that extends behind the ear.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Pain Behind the Ear

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced pain behind the ear. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Temporomandibular Joint (Tmj) Dysfunction Disorder

    The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located in front of the ear, and it connects the jaw to the side of the head. Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a painful condition which can be caused by excess tension in jaw mucles, faulty alignment between upper and lower teeth, arthritis in the joint, or injury of the jaw or face.

    Outcome is highly case-dependent.

    Top Symptoms:
    dizziness, pain, restricted movement, and clicking sounds from jaw, history of headaches, jaw pain, pain in the back of the neck
    Symptoms that always occur with temporomandibular joint (tmj) dysfunction disorder:
    pain, restricted movement, and clicking sounds from jaw
    Primary care doctor

    Pain Behind the Ear Checker

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  2. 2.Lymph Node Inflammation Behind the Ear

    There are lymph nodes behind the ear. Lymph nodes are where your immune cells live, and when they become enlarged, it could be from a nearby infection, immune response, or even backlog of blood.

    Depends on the outcomes of what is causing the enlargement

    Top Symptoms:
    pain behind the ear, swelling behind the ears
    Symptoms that always occur with lymph node inflammation behind the ear:
    swelling behind the ears
    Primary care doctor

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Pain Behind the Ear

  • Q.Has your dentist or significant other ever told you that you grind your teeth in your sleep?
  • Q.Are you experiencing a headache?
  • Q.Do you hear a ringing or whistling sound no one else hears?
  • Q.About your ear, do you feel a warm or fluid sensation in your ear?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our pain behind the ear symptom checker to find out more.

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Pain Behind the Ear Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced pain behind the ear have also experienced:

    • 11% Ear Canal Pain
    • 8% Headache
    • 3% Pain in the Back of the Neck
  • People who have experienced pain behind the ear had symptoms persist for:

    • 43% Less Than a Week
    • 29% Less Than a Day
    • 12% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced pain behind the ear were most often matched with:

    • 57% Lymph Node Inflammation Behind the Ear
    • 42% Temporomandibular Joint (Tmj) Dysfunction Disorder
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

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