The future of hearing has arrived: Introducing Miracle-EarBLISS™!

Sore throat and ear pain: Causes and treatment

Last update on Aug, 30, 2023

Waking up to a sore throat or ear pain is no fun, but experiencing both simultaneously? What a pain—literally! When you consider that the ears, nose and throat are connected, it’s no wonder a sore throat and ear pain often occur together.

Here, we explore ear pain and sore throat symptoms and causes and share remedies and treatments to help you get back in tip-top shape. 

Symptoms of sore throat and ear pain

When you have a sore throat, it might feel dry and scratchy, and you could find it painful to swallow or cough. A sore throat is a common symptom of allergies, a cold or other upper respiratory infections.

Ear pain, on the other hand, is more likely in children than adults but can occur at any age. Ear pain might feel dull, sharp or like a burning sensation. Or, if you have a cold, your ear—or ears—might feel plugged. 

What causes sore throats and ear pain?

You likely have a handful of questions. Can sore throats cause ear pain? Are my sore throat and ear pain related? And perhaps most pressing, what is the root of this discomfort? There are many possible causes, including the following: 

Can allergies cause a sore throat and ear pain? According to experts, it’s a resounding yes. Among allergies’ many symptoms, simultaneous pain in the ears and throat is common. The sore throat stems from irritation or postnasal drip, while inflammation and swelling in the ear can create a blockage and fluid buildup.

Ear pain, sinus pressure, sore throat, oh my! These signs may point to chronic sinusitis, a condition where the sinuses swell for three months or longer and don’t respond to treatment. This inflammation prevents mucus from draining normally, causing a stuffy nose and some swelling around the eyes. Other symptoms include ear pain because the ears won’t pop or unclog and a sore throat due to postnasal drip.

TMJ, sore throat and ear pain can be related. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is found on both sides of the jaw and connects the jawbone to the skull. TMJ disorders may arise from a variety of factors like jaw injury, genetics and arthritis. In addition to tenderness or pain in the jaw, TMJ disorders can cause temporary, aching ear pain and a sore throat, as the joint is located right behind the center of a major nerve network.

Most common in children ages 5 to 15, tonsillitis occurs when the tonsils at the back of the throat become inflamed. Symptoms include swollen tonsils, sore throat, ear pain, tender lymph nodes and difficulty swallowing. Ear pain can accompany tonsillitis because the eustachian tubes, which provide ventilation to the middle ears, are so close to the tonsils, causing referred pain or pain perceived in an area other than where it’s occurring. 

Acid reflux is stomach acid that flows back into the esophagus—the tube connecting the mouth and stomach. When this backwash occurs repeatedly, it can cause gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The most common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn—a burning sensation in the chest—but a sore throat is also common. From feeling like there’s a lump in the throat to inflamed vocal cords (laryngitis), there are several reasons you may have a sore throat when experiencing acid reflux.

But how are acid reflux, sore throat and ear pain related? The acid from GERD can affect the nasopharynx, which is the part of your throat that’s behind your nose. The nasopharynx is connected to the eustachian tubes of your ears, so irritation in one can lead to problems—and pain—in the other.

Can strep throat cause a sore throat and ear pain? Let’s address this in two parts. One of the most common symptoms of this generally mild yet very uncomfortable disease is a sore throat. It may hurt to swallow, feel dry or itchy, and your throat may look red with swollen tonsils dotted with white patches of pus.

While strep throat doesn’t cause ear pain, it can spur an ear infection, which might be painful. This happens when the bacteria travels from the throat into the middle ear. 

Mononucleosis, or mono for short, is a virus that spreads through saliva and is sometimes misdiagnosed as strep throat because of similar symptoms like a sore throat and swollen tonsils and lymph nodes.

Unlike strep, where the tonsils tend to turn red with white patches or streaks, mono causes the tonsils to develop a white-yellow covering. Again, because the throat and ears have many connections, it’s not uncommon for ear pain, mononucleosis, sore throat and other symptoms to occur at the same time

It’s not just bacteria and viruses that cause ear pain and sore throat. When it comes to a sore throat, irritants range from pollution like chemicals and tobacco smoke to spicy food and alcohol. Likewise, ear pain doesn’t necessarily signal an infection and may stem from pain elsewhere, like the jaw, teeth or throat. 
Woman with sore throat

Prevention is key

Never underestimate the importance of ear care. Your hearing might depend on it.

Treating sore throat and ear pain

Luckily, there are many treatments to alleviate a sore throat and earache. While some are safe to try at home, others require a medical professional. Read on for how to treat ear pain and sore throat. 

There are several sore throat and ear pain remedies to try at home before seeking professional help.

  • For a sore throat: Drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration and keep the throat moist, gargle with salt water, plug in a humidifier to maintain moisture in the air or consider popping a cough drop or over-the-counter medication.
  • For ear pain: Apply a cool compress to help reduce inflammation or a warm compress to aid in loosening congestion, sleep upright or try an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen. 

While most throat and ear pain goes away within a week without treatment, your doctor may consider the following sore throat and ear pain remedies if you’re experiencing severe discomfort or unusual symptoms:

  • Antibiotics
  • Acid reflux medication
  • Allergy medication
  • Anesthetic drops 

Find your closest Miracle-Ear center

Your store

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment to see a doctor immediately if a high fever or stiff neck accompanies your sore throat and ear pain. If you experience any of the following, head to the emergency room for immediate attention: difficulty breathing or swallowing, drooling or a high-pitched sound when breathing (also known as stridor). 

HCP at store

Check your hearing with Miracle-Ear

One of the best ways to care for your ears and prevent hearing loss is to get them properly examined by a hearing professional. Find your nearest Miracle-Ear store to get started on your journey to better hearing.

More from the blog

Discover a world of sounds.
View all

Get support and advice

Book an appointment online

Book now

Take a free online hearing test

Start test

Find a hearing aid center near you

Search now