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What causes outside ear pain?

Updated July 19, 2017

Our external ear lobes are filled with cartilage, blood vessels and fatty tissue. Ear lobes serve as personal sound receptors, providing us our ability to hear. Outside ear pain, although not common, may require medical treatment. Knowing what's causing your outside ear pain can help you find relief.

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If you have acne, eczema, psoriasis or hives on your face, it may also be affecting your outside ears. Even a pimple or blackhead on the outside ear is very painful. Look for red lumps, feel with your finger or have someone else look. Use your same face treatment on your ears. When washing your face wash your ears.


If you're exposed to cold weather, your outside ears might ache, become numb, tingle or burn. If your outer ears throb, even after you've warmed up, examine your ears for frostbite. According to the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, early frost bite--in both adults and children--will cause skin to appear waxy, white and hard.


Ear lobes sunburn quickly, and are a common spot for skin cancer to develop. If you're going in the sun, rub your outside ears with sunscreen and wear a hat. Use a lotion with aloe to sooth your ears after being outdoors. Sunburned ears will hurt, until the sunburn clears up. If dark spots, moles or scaly patches on your ears become painful or swollen, contact your physician.


Getting hit on the ear, falling on your ear or bumping your ear against something, can cause an outer ear ache. Your ear will ache or be sensitive to the touch until the cartilage has healed. Cartilage heals quickly, so if an ear ache lasts longer than a week, contact your physician.


An ear canal infection will make the outside of your ear ache, especially when you push behind your ear. Ear piercings, if not properly cared for, can become infected, swollen and painful. Cysts can grow between outer ear tissues, causing painful lumps. If you notice a growth or your outer ear becomes swollen, red and painful, contact your physician.

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About the Author

Nadia Benavidez

In the hot desert of Arizona, Nadia Benavidez has been studying hearing instrument science since 2002. After leaving a clinical practice, Benavidez has put her talent to work writing informative articles related to health and wellness. Currently Benavidez is working on her first book.

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