Extreme outer ear pain: What can it be?

Posted by ellienewfan @ellienewfan, 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.

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) Support Group.

I have suffered for many years with the outer ear pain. It was diagnosed by a doctor who also suffered with it. She called it Relapsing Polychondritis. No cure and no treatment. But then last year I was treating my back pain with red light therapy pads. I read that the athletes use it all the time. If you read up on both of these comments it will be helpful.
You can buy red light therapy pads in many places on line All different sizes and prices.
What I do each night before bed is place the pad over each ear for 20 minutes. My pad is a large rectangle so I do both ears at the same time.
I swear it works for me extremely well. I can sleep on my sides again without pain.

These pads can be returned to any of the companies that sell them. Please read up on it before purchasing. All I know is it has been a life saver for me.


...march 18 2022 along with other ear issues got a hot sore outer ear, took a photo but not bright red, overly pink, then the other started i thought from covid mask as i have to twist the elastic so snug fit... month before hot dark pink each site of neck, humn? but then with a vengeance during may and ever since it is one cheek, both cheecks, goes up to eye one side and down neck and under chin! its BURNING now for up to five hours...but heres the catch it isnt always red or dark pink, the days it is i take a selfie...even my nose gets flushed...i am up against a wall as nurse practitioner not a clue and now waiting 4 months so see dermatologist but it is so painful; i am hoping yours does not progress like mine so yes keep tabs on it, the day, how long, what you were doing, photos etc. just in case! there are severl illnesses it could be and also inside nerves but drs and nurses so busy these days looking after as they tell me more seriously ill patients! the past 4 months horrible and i have no idea what brings it on. many years ago i had what original poster here has and ear so painful after lying on it but it went away, but now have this in its place - they never did find out what caused the ear pain and i am wondering why not!! ..as they say , can put a man on the moon but not find out what's causing these types of issues while not life threatening are life affecting.. good luck everyone.

Jump to this post

sorry wrong site ... best of luck with outer ear pain i think the pillow with little hole in it so no pressure on ear sounds good... i bought an adjustable bed as try and sleep with head elevated but always wake up on side and that ear is always worse with tinnitus and eustachian tube..years ago i had similar painful actual ear and went to dr. but no advice and eventually went away - but replaced with other illnesses seems always something with my poor body; sorry wrong post


Check with an ENT specialist to see if you have a hole in your eardrum. I did. It took three procedures to fix the hole. ENT doc also suggested massaging around the ear and it also has helped with ear pain. Also, get your ears cleaned out by a nurse or doctor on a regular basis.
Hope this helps.


Hi everyone,
I have this as well, I have never told my doctor though due to fear of not being taken seriously.
The relapsing polychondritis is the only thing that potentially fits my situation. It appears to be diagnosed by rheumatologists via biopsy of the ear cartilage.
The pain is so intense! I don’t think people can understand unless it happens to them. I have had lots of internal and external ear infections, it is not a similar feeling to the ear pain experienced when sleeping. The first time it happened, it was really scary. It seems to happen a lot, then go away for a while ( weeks/months) then returns. It happens even when I am laying on my back now. I don’t see noticeable swelling in my ear cartilage. (My ears have been randomly turning bright red/hot my whole life, other people notice and tell me)

The ear pain wakes me up and it takes 30 minutes or less for it to go away. Pain meds wouldn’t be necessary due to the short nature of the pain. It happens on one side or the other but not typically both at the same time. It can happen multiple times in the same night. It is very painful and it interrupts my sleep but my main concern is if it is a precursor to something else like vascular disease.


Same problem. Relieved the pressure by buying a small, donut-shaped pillow on Amazon. I think they’re made for people wearing earbuds or multiple ear piercings in bed. But it’s perfect for keeping pressure off my ear!


Replying to mvandyke and samanthas...
Im new to this site, but unlike most on it, Im at my wits end. I have had this worsening ear pain going on 2 yrs & just discovered this site tonight! So like you all I have tried several things, from trying to break a 60 yr old habit of sleeping mostly on my right side & staying on my back....doesn't work too well, I wake up about every 1/2 hr, all night long...until around 4:30 am I just give up & get up. Pillows, simply do not work for me, I've tried buying them, making them, nothing works. Elevating the head does not work. Loading up w/pain killers before crawling into bed works for about two hours, then the pain from sleeping on my right side is so bad Im up & regretting the pain killers! Im at the point now I swallow & it hurts in my right ear, the fringes of my outer ear are so sensitive at night if they even touch a bed sheet its painful, no color though.Cant move my jaw at night & swallowing hurts in mt right ear as well, even moving the jaw from side to side...
I think this:
I grew up in a time that kids played in the dirt, forts etc...wash up & go again the next day. I graduated through the trades, 3 trade tickets resulting in sawdust in the ears, heavy dust from grinding welds & airborne dirt from body shop dust....all day everyday for 45 yrs...
On the internet I have seen several examples of doctors removing almost little sticks of solid wax & dirt, dust, etc coming out of a plugged ear.... as a kid my mom was famous for digging out dirt, rocks etc with a bobby pin....I used q-tips forever, probably pushing the crud in, deeper & deeper, so my thoughts are going to a Dr soon ( I'm not a fan at the best of times & now with the new Covid way of doing business, even less ) & seeing if he will do a deep clean on my right ear, I have convinced myself this is the cure & I'm hoping this will stop the pain.
Question : Has anyone gone in & done this ? How did it turn out? My ear hurts all night long, my jaw hurts, my throat hurts, I cant sleep at night anymore & I am at the point I would deep clean my own eardrum if I wasn't such a weenie....LOL.
Seriously though, it is all absorbing & I am at the end of my rope with it.....Thoughts?

Jump to this post

Had this for 5 years. I did hydrogen peroxide a couple times a day by pouring it in then started doing lugols 7%iodine with a qtip. Once a week. It may be your phone or if you use ear buds. The bacteria on your phone is causing swimmers ear. Very painful. The jaw pain will subside if you get rid of the bacterial infection.


Please read up on What Is Relapsing Polychondritis?
I suffer also for years and this is what my doctor feels I have.
I treat it with red light therapy. On really bad nights I use a prescription of cortisone. Hope this helps


@ellienewfan My husband had ear pain and a small scaly bump on his ear and went to the dr. He diagnosed it with Chondrodermitis Nodularis Helicis (CNH). Turns out I have it too, We bought donut pillows that took the pressure off our ears and cleared them up. Ours didn’t go on too long so we had some pain but it never progressed very far. Check this out. Please keep me posted how you are. Hope you find answers.


My pain originates from the outer rim of the ear. It is a very sharp pain when a certain spot is touched but I have pain around and back of my ear even when nothing is touching it. I cannot lay on that side. The ENT thinks it may have to do with a small bone in that area but I don’t understand what bone he is talking about. It appears to me that there is nothing but cartilage in the painful area.


My pain originates from the outer rim of the ear. It is a very sharp pain when a certain spot is touched but I have pain around and back of my ear even when nothing is touching it. I cannot lay on that side. The ENT thinks it may have to do with a small bone in that area but I don’t understand what bone he is talking about. It appears to me that there is nothing but cartilage in the painful area.

Jump to this post

Most likely he is referring to the Styloid bone/ligament.
Check out the posts or research Eagle's Syndrome.

Please sign in or register to post a reply.