Swollen Ears Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand your swollen ears symptoms, including 3 causes & common questions.

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  1. 3 Possible Swollen Ears Causes
  2. Real-Life Stories
  3. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  4. Statistics
  5. Related Articles

3 Possible Swollen Ears Causes

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced swollen ears. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Swimmer's ear (otitis externa)

Swimmer's ear, or otitis externa, is an infection of the canal which runs from the eardrum to the opening of the ear.

It is caused by anything that introduces bacteria, fungus, or a virus into the canal. Water that stays inside the ear after swimming is a common cause, as are cotton swabs used for cleaning or earpieces that create irritation.

Most susceptible are children, because they have narrower ear canals that do not drain well.

Early symptoms include redness, itching, and discomfort inside the ear canal, sometimes with drainage of clear fluid.

Even mild symptoms should be treated because they can quickly get worse. The infection can spread and intensify, becoming very painful with increased drainage, swelling, fever, and loss of hearing.

Diagnosis is made through patient history and physical examination of the ear canal. Lab tests may be done on a sample of the discharge from the ear.

Treatment includes having a medical provider clean the ear canal of debris and discharge, and a prescription for antibiotic and/or steroid eardrops.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fever, ear canal pain, ear fullness/pressure, jaw pain, ear pain that gets worse when moving

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Swollen Ears Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your swollen ears

Relapsing polychondritis

Relapsing polychondritis is a disorder in which defects develop in cartilage and other tissues throughout the body, including the ears, nose, eyes, joints, and respiratory tract. It is considered a rare condition.

Symptoms vary widely by case, but you may experie...

Read more

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.

Rarity: Common

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

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Real-life Stories

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Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Swollen Ears

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Do you have swelling behind your ears?
  • Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Is there anything coming from your ear(s)?
  • Do you use cotton-tipped swabs (q-tips) to clean your ears?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Swollen Ears Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your swollen ears

Swollen Ears Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced swollen ears have also experienced:

  • 5% Ear Fullness/Pressure
  • 4% Ear Itch
  • 3% Cough

People who have experienced swollen ears were most often matched with:

  • 36% Swimmer'S Ear (Otitis Externa)
  • 36% Lymph Node Inflammation Behind The Ear
  • 27% Relapsing Polychondritis

People who have experienced swollen ears had symptoms persist for:

  • 50% Less than a week
  • 31% Less than a day
  • 8% Over a month

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

Swollen Ears Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your swollen ears

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