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extreme outer ear pain

Posted by @ellienewfan in Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat, Feb 4, 2013

Please....someone help me.

I’ve visited my allergist, an ear-nose-throat specialist and my own internist.
None of them have ever heard of my problem and don’t know how to help me.

Started approx 20 yrs ago, Every couple of months I would get an awful pain on one of my ears if I had been laying on it during the night. It would happen to either ear, whichever one I laid on.

To describe the pain. It is so intense that it wakes me. Pain is NOT inside the ear but around the edges of the entrance of it. It is so painful, I can’t touch it. It will be throbbing. It also hurts tremendously behind, towards the bottom back of the ear. Can’t touch that either. The only thing that will make it go away is when I then get up and stand and within approx 30 min it is gone. I even tested it by massaging behind the ear (once I could bear to touch it) and it seemed to make pain go away faster.

The last approx 3 years, I have no longer been able to even lay on either ear when in bed because now the pain will come every time. I have learned to sleep on my back. Sometimes I would still move onto my side during night, and wake up with pain.

For last 6 months, I’ve been having pressure and achy feeling around one of the ears, even while laying on my back. Then I started getting the pain even while sleeping on my back.

I am very much afraid that the day will come when I will no longer be able to lay down in my bed to go to sleep.

I am desperate to get to the bottom of this and perhaps for first time in 20 years be able to comfortably lay on my side in bed.

My ENT doctor said my ears are healthy .... i have no hearing loss.

This ear pain, however, is starting to affect my daily living, since I don’t seem to be able to get the restful sleep I need.

I will be forever grateful if someone could pinpoint this. thanks.


Posted by @bearylynn, Apr 19, 2013

I've had same symptoms for 20 years.

When I sleep on my side, I bunch edge of memory foam (lightweight) pillow under my neck so force of ear on pillow is minimal.

Also - when really acting up - small amount of terazol cream (yes, it's a 'vaginal' yeast cream -- and I've also used it for yeast in my dog's ear) on a q-tip swabbed around the ear canal.

In 2007, I had ear tubes placed (not related to this). My left ear, which is the one with the soreness problem, became VERY painful and would bleed when I slept on my left side. After deciding drum was infected at the tube, it was removed. Surgeon was surprised at how infected it was -- even needed to patch the drum. I think that's when I decided to try to treat for yeast.


Posted by @jfortinofish1, Fri, Oct 7 at 10:02pm CDT

i have the same and would like to find out what is causing this pain james


Posted by @jfortinofish1, Fri, Oct 7 at 10:04pm CDT

i am 75 just started getting this outer ear pain while sleeping it wakes me and it only on outer ear cartlidge, and not even laying on it? what is causing it?


Posted by @colleenyoung, Sat, Oct 8 at 7:38pm CDT

Hi @jfortinofish1, welcome to Connect. Have you spoken to your doctor about this? There may be an infection that needs looking after.
I'm also tagging @upartist on this discussion.


Posted by @jfortinofish1, Sat, Oct 8 at 7:52pm CDT

there is no infection, no redness no elevated temp. only pain at night!


Posted by @bearylynn, Mon, Oct 10 at 2:10am CDT

Based on my experience, you may never get answer [or maybe you will???}

I believe I have a chronic, low grade infection - perhaps fungal or bacterial.
I have had great relief for a little while now {it feels wonderful to be able to sleep on my left side for the 1st time in so long}.
I've been recently using infrared heat to warm up multiple painful body locations, which happen to include ears, neck and sinuses, as well as LOTS of other areas on my EDS/body of chronic pain. At this time it is helpful.
I believe the heat kills whatever low-grade infection may be lingering in the area.

I will NOT give any advice about the heat therapy. I would leave the decisions related to the infrared heat use completely up to you and whatever you decide/discover/research on the topic.

Take note though, that many saunas use infrared as the heat source.

Good luck. Let me know if you ever do have any improvement if you know the reason for the improvement.


Posted by @ellienewfan, Mon, Oct 10 at 10:11pm CDT

at least i'm not alone in this. no redness, no swelling, etc. Doctors i saw (ear, nose, throat doc.; my own internist; had exrays and MRI) looked at me funny when i tried to explain my situation. thanks @bearylynn,i also have been bunching up a pillow so there is least amount of touching my ear. i seem to be able to somewhat lay on my left side, but my right cannot abide it. in fact if i even lay on right side even without anything touching my ear, i'll still get it.terrible pain. i am currently 72, and think that perhaps i'll never get rid of this and must suffer with this for rest of my life.


Posted by @upartist, Tue, Oct 11 at 8:03am CDT

Hi Ellen. If your ear pain is caused by vascular pooling, it's possible that elevating the head of your bed might provide some relief. Raise the frame 4 to 6 inches so the entire bed is at an angle, to allow for your whole body to be evenly stretched out while you sleep (not just your head or upper body). It is quite comfortable and easy to do. Bricks, wood blocks, or even old books work nicely. Also try a medium softness to soft pillow to take the pressure off the peripheral ear area. The other item you could include in positioning your head might include a McKensie roll. It's a soft neck bolster that doesn't impede circulation like firmer bolsters tend to do. Good luck.


Posted by @upartist, Tue, Oct 11 at 8:18am CDT

Hi again Ellien, Another possibility is if the ear pain has a neurological origin (peripheral) or muscular origin, there are some exciting things happening in the area of kinesiotaping. For this you would go through Physical or Occupational Therapy with a physicians referral. But make sure you shop around for a therapist who is experienced or trained in various kinds of kinesio-taping.


Posted by @ellienewfan, Tue, Oct 11 at 11:32pm CDT

thanks, @upartist. i am definitely going to try the elevation. although i do elevate my upper body due to acid reflux problems, i can see that i probably should try raising the bed.. also read your thoughts about kinesio-taping. not sure i understand it, but will keep in mind. and research. perhaps discuss with my doctor. if i should get any relief by raising the bed itself, i will let everyone know.

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