We can take our ears for a granted a bit sometimes, especially if they haven’t caused us any problems for a while. But we certainly know about it when they’re hurting.

[Read more: What is glue ear? And how do I know if my child has it? Symptoms and treatment explained]

What causes ear pain?

Ear ache or pain can be caused by many different things, but if there’s a change in hearing, it could be glue ear or a build-up of ear wax, or even a perforated eardrum, which can happen after a loud noise or accident.

If you have ear pain with a fever, it could be an ear infection or a cold or flu, and if it’s accompanied by a pain when swallowing, it could be caused by a sore throat, tonsillitis or quinsy, a rare complication of tonsillitis.

[Read more: 10 reasons to have your hearing checked]

What you can do to treat it

The following recommendations from the NHS are the best way to deal with ear pain yourself:

- You can take painkillers, such as ibuprofen and paracetamol
- Putting a warm or cold flannel over your ear can give it some comfort
- Your pharmacist can advise you on treatments, such as eardrops
- Make sure you don’t put anything in your ear, such as cotton buds
- Don’t try and remove earwax from your ear
- Don’t let water get in your ear, as this could make the pain worse

When to see a GP

The NHS advises that you go and see your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms, accompanying the ear pain:

- a high temperature
- swelling around the ear
- fluid coming from the ear
- something stuck in the ear
- an earache for more than 3 days
- hearing loss or a change in hearing
- other symptoms, like vomiting or a severe sore throat

[Read more: What is tinnitus and could you have it?]

Ear pain in babies and young children

Most cases of earache in children are caused by an ear infection and they should start to feel better in a few days. In babies, the ear pain may be caused by teething and in children it could be caused by a dental abscess, where puss collects in the tooth, gum or bone, caused by a bacterial infection.

If your baby or child is displaying any of the following symptoms, they could have earache:

- rub or pull their ear
- don’t react to some sounds
- have a fever
- are irritable or restless
- are off their food
- keep losing their balance