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:

  • Certain foods
  • Cosmetics, dyes or detergents
  • Industrial chemicals, such as those found in elastic, latex or rubber
  • Insect bites or stings
  • Metals, especially in jewelry
  • Poison ivy or oak

Infectious causes of an ear burning sensation

Ear burning sensation can also be caused by infections including:

  • Candidiasis (yeast infection)
  • Chickenpox or shingles (varicella-zoster virus)
  • Mastoiditis (infection of the bone behind the ear)
  • Other bacterial or viral infections
  • Pseudomonal infection (caused by Pseudomonas bacteria)
  • Ringworm

Skin disease causes of an ear burning sensation

Ear burning sensation can be caused by skin diseases that affect other parts of the body. These include:

  • Eczema (skin rash usually caused by allergic reactions)
  • Neurodermatitis (skin condition of unknown cause characterized by intense itching)
  • Psoriasis (chronic skin disease characterized by dry, scaly silvery patches)

Other causes of an ear burning sensation

Ear burning sensation can be caused by other factors including:

  • Extreme cold or heat
  • Medications
  • Stress

Serious or life-threatening causes of an ear burning sensation

In some cases, ear burning sensation may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Anaphylaxis (life-threatening allergic reaction)
  • Severe infections

Questions for diagnosing the cause of an ear burning sensation

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your ear burning sensation including:

  • When did you first feel an ear burning sensation?
  • Are you taking any medications?
  • Are you experiencing oozing, pus, or any other discharge from the ear?
  • Do you feel otherwise healthy?
  • Have you tried any new products recently, such as soaps, perfumes or sprays?
  • Have you spent a lot of time outdoors lately?
  • Have you been swimming or scuba diving?
  • Have you recently flown in an airplane or done anything else that exposed you to sudden shifts in altitude or air pressure?

What are the potential complications of an ear burning sensation?

An ear burning sensation is not usually serious, but it is important to determine its underlying cause and rule out a serious infection or allergic reaction. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications.

  • Cholesteatoma (tumor or cyst most commonly found in the middle ear and area of the mastoid bone)
  • Communication difficulties (speech or language impairment)
  • Mastoiditis (inflammation of the bone behind the ear)
  • Meningitis (inflammation of the meninges, a protective membrane of the brain )
  • Recurring ear infections


  1. Ear problems. FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/health-tools/search-by-symptom/ear-problems.html.
  2. Ear infections in children. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/earinfections.

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, wa... Read more about ear burning sensationintroduction


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

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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