What is an ear burning sensation?

The sensation of burning in, on or around your ear may cause it to feel swollen, inflamed and tender. It may be warm to the touch. Many causes of burning and inflammation are attributed to an infection, which occurs when bacteria, viruses or other microorganisms enter your body. The immune response to these microorganisms is responsible for the typical symptoms of infection, such as redness, warmth and swelling.

An ear burning sensation is often attributed to otitis media with effusion, in which the Eustachian tube of the middle ear becomes blocked with fluid and infected. The Eustachian tube connects your ear to your throat and permits the drainage of fluid from your middle ear. If fluid builds up, it can cause the middle ear to become infected with bacteria or viruses, causing pain and swelling.

Another source of burning sensation is otitis externa, commonly known as swimmer’s ear. This condition, which often results from water getting into the outer ear canal, is typically accompanied by burning, swelling and itching. Water remaining in the ear creates a warm, moist environment that encourages the growth of bacteria, such as Pseudomonas. Other causes can contribute to otitis externa, including an infection of the bone at the base of the skull, a foreign object lodged in the ear, and irritation from itching or cleaning the ear. Allergies to earrings or skin conditions, such as eczema, can also produce symptoms of swimmer’s ear.

Burning accompanied by redness around the outer ear and the skin around your ear can be indications of a serious infection that should prompt you to contact your health care provider right away. If you experience tenderness in the bone behind your ear, along with pain and swelling, you could have mastoiditis (infection of the mastoid bone) or a lymph node infection.

Although most ear infections either resolve on their own or with antibiotics, some symptoms warrant immediate medical attention, as they can point to an infection of the bones behind the ear or to a ruptured eardrum. Ear burning sensation may also be a symptom of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have any serious symptoms, including swelling of the throat or difficulty breathing; high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit); severe pain or severe headache; swelling and redness of the skin around the ear; or throbbing or tenderness behind the ear, especially over the bone.

Seek prompt medical care if you have any other ear burning sensation that causes you concern.


What other symptoms might occur with an ear burning sensation?

Ear burning sensation may be accompanied by other symptoms, depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Certain conditions that cause an ear burning sensation may also involve other body systems.

Related localized symptoms that may occur along with an ear burning sensation

Ear burning sensation may be accompanied by other localized symptoms including: Read more about ear burning sensationsymptoms


What causes an ear burning sensation?

Ear burning sensation has many possible causes, including allergens (agents that cause allergies), infections, autoimmune disorders, or other causes, such as stress.

Allergic causes of an ear burning sensation

Ear burning sensation could be an allergic reaction to any of the following:

Read more about ear burning sensationcauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 1, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Ear, Nose and Throat

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