If you’ve ever found yourself asking: Why Does My Ear Hurt When I Yawn? Take solace in the fact that you aren’t alone. Ear pain when yawning is a common occurrence, and it can be caused by different factors, the most common of which is due to blocked Eustachian (Pronounced yoo·stay·kee·uhn) tubes – If you often feel soreness in your ear when yawning or swallowing, then this article will shed light on why that happens and what to do about it.

The Cause of Ear Pain When You Yawn

The first thing that comes to mind when someone asks me why does my ear hurt when I yawn is Eustachian tubes.

Eustachian Tubes

The Eustachian tubes are hollow tubes lined with mucous membranes that connect the middle ear to the back of the throat. These tubes equalize pressure on both sides of the eardrum and prevent fluid from building up in your ears.

When you yawn, swallow or chew food, the Eustachian tubes open and close allowing air to flow into them from outside your body.

The mucous membranes in the Eustachian tubes can become inflamed from infections or allergies, preventing the flow of air and causing pressure build-up and even collection of fluid in the middle ear, which can cause pain. Also, fluid in the ear can lead to an infection (acute otitis media). It is more common for young children to experience ear infections, because their eustachian tubes are more prone to blockage than the tubes in older children and adults.

How a Nose or Throat Infection Can Cause Ear Pain When Yawning or Swallowing

If you’re asking why does my ear hurt when I yawn, consider that your earache can be a symptom of a sinus infection or throat infection. If you’re experiencing ear pain in conjunction with other symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing and congestion, it’s likely that you have a sinus infection that has spread to your ears and throat.

How an Ear Infection Can Cause Pain When Yawning or Swallowing

An ear infection can also cause pain when yawning or swallowing. If you have an earache, you may experience pain when yawning, eating or drinking because the nerves in the eardrum are sensitive to pressure changes.

Ear infections are caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi that enter the outer ear canal and irritate it. They can be treated with antibiotics and will usually go away on their own within 2-3 weeks without treatment; however, if left untreated, they could lead to serious complications such as hearing loss or mastoiditis (an infection of bone behind an infected eardrum). Earplugs are often recommended for swimmers who want protection from water damage while still being able to hear what’s going on around them

How to Deal with Ear Pain When You Yawn

Now that we addressed the question why does my ear hurt when I yawn, following are some of the actions you can take to treat this condition:

  • First, remember that Eustachian tubes often get unblocked on their own
  • Putting a warm compress on the outside of your ear to help reduce swelling and pain
  • Taking an antihistamine such as Zyrtec or Allegra to help reduce inflammation and make the symptoms less severe
  • Taking a decongestant by mouth or spraying it into your nose to reduce swelling and inflammation
  • If you have allergies, the doctor may prescribe a steroid medicine that you spray into your nose
  • If you have an ear or sinus infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics
  • Taking a hot shower or bath to help relax tense muscles in the face and neck area, which may make it easier to pop your ears when they become plugged up during an episode of sinusitis (a common cause of earache).

Is it Ear Pain or TMJ Pain?

The temporomandibular (Pronounced tem·puh·roe·man·dib·u·lur) joint (TMJ) connects the jawbone to the skull. There is one joint on each side of the jaw. Sometimes a type of temporomandibular disorder can cause pain in your jaw joint and/or in the muscles and ligaments attached to your jaw, especially the masseter muscles at each side of your jaw. The pain from swelling or irritation of these muscles can be perceived as ear pain.

What to do About TMJ Pain?

Applying an ice pack to the affected area for 20 minutes and taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — like ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Motrin) — can give you some relief. Also, given that stress and teeth clenching are often the culprits of TMJ pain, the following stretching exercises may help you:

  • While touching the roof of your mouth with the tip of your tongue, open your mouth as wide as you can and hold for 5-10 seconds.
  • While touching the roof of your mouth with the tip of your tongue, extend your lower jaw out as far as it will go and hold for 5-10 seconds. Then, keeping your tongue touching your upper palate, move your lower jaw back in as far as it will go and hold for 5-10 seconds.
  • While keeping your tongue relaxed, slowly open your mouth in a continuous movement as wide as you can, hold for 5-10 seconds then close your mouth. Next, while keeping your tongue relaxed, open your mouth slightly and move your lower jaw back and forth for 5-10 times.
  • Face forward and, while keeping your mouth closed, move your lower jaw to one side and hold for 5-10 seconds. Then move your lower jaw to the other side and hold for 5-10 seconds.
  • Put a pencil or chopstick between your upper and lower front teeth. Extend your lower jaw forward so that the object rests in between your lower back teeth and your upper front teeth and hold for 20 seconds.

If these actions don’t help you relieve the pain in 2-3 days, you should talk to your dentist or primary care physician.

Why Does My Ear Hurt When I Yawn? Conclusion

To answer the question why does my ear hurt when I yawn, you must consider that the ear pain that you feel when yawning or swallowing is usually not a serious condition but it could be the symptom of blocked Eustachian tubes and/or an ear, throat or sinus infection. Also, some instances of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain can feel like ear pain.

There are simple actions you can take to deal with the pain but if you’ve been experiencing pain in your ear when yawning or swallowing and it doesn’t go away, make sure to book an appointment with a skilled ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) doctor – Also known as an otorhinolaryngologist. They’ll discuss your symptoms and perform a thorough exam to offer a solution to your discomfort.

erin edwards aud
Clinical Audiologist at Towson University | + posts

Erin Edwards received her Doctor of Audiology degree from Towson University in 2015 and her Ph.D. in Education and Leadership from Pacific University in 2022. She has worked with patients of all ages in a variety of settings and has a specific interest in cochlear implants, the relationship of hearing loss and dementia, and interdisciplinary healthcare.

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