Is pain an indicator of hearing loss?

I’m fearful I’ll be joining the club soon, hoping to find some guidance here. I have been experiencing pain and fullness in my left ear. i went to urgent care and they diagnosed an ear infection, prescribing antibiotics. It has not improved, and I have an appointment with an ENT next week. My hearing seems to be ok, although the ear feels full which makes me think perhaps it’s not. I attend a fair amount of concerts so that was a concern. I was also on an airplane before this happened but I fly often.

Everything I read says that hearing loss is rarely painful. I’m hoping that’s the case, but wanted to get some insight here.


For God’s sake, if things aren’t improving don’t wait until next week to see an ENT specialist! How many days have you been on the antibiotics??

The ENT appointment is in case it’s something else. But if they’re diagnosing an infection in urgent care, be aware that there are many different possible infectious agents and you might not have received the right antibiotics. If the infection goes on into next week you could lose hearing in that ear forever.

If you have insurance coverage, ask your clinic to get you an immediate followup appointment to treat the infection. If they don’t, it’s malpractice.

Or go back to urgent care if it’s been a day or two and it’s not getting better.

Thanks for the reply. I started feeling this issue after coming back from a concert trip in CO. I took a week of antibiotics and I think it did get somewhat better, although hard to remember. This has been going on since early July so I figured another few days won’t be the end of the world. I had some vacations in the interm and the ENT couldn’t get me in until Thurs. Now I’m a bit petrified that you mention an infection causing hearing loss. Lovely.

Don’t worry. You have an appointment with an ENT next week. I would guess that if the pain had been on the level that would indicate a damaging infection, you would have been back to the doctor sooner on your own. There’s a good likelihood that this is a temporary middle ear issue complicated by a bit of barotrauma. It would have been nice for you to have gotten a hearing test back in July to confirm, but if it turns out there was some permanent hearing loss there’s nothing to be done to reverse that now anyway, and not much you could have done in the first place so not much use worrying about now.

When you hum, do you get a sort of boomy echoy effect in the bad ear? Or is it hard to hear yourself on that side?

Thank you!! When I hum, it feels like the ear in question vibrates and has a full feeling. My hearing seems to be ok, but with my focus on it seems a little diminished compared to the right ear. I guess what I was really hoping to find out is, if noise induced hearing loss was a culprit, would there be a feeling of fullness and pain? From what I’ve read, hearing loss generally doesn’t come with those symptoms, it just fades away. I’m hoping that’s the case. I am a music fanatic and attend plenty of concerts. I just got ear molds for protection moving forward. I’m scared to death now.

Thanks all!

Probably a good sign.

And no, sensorineural hearing loss isn’t painful. Certainly if you are a normal hearing person with normal loudness tolerance and you are exposed to a noise that is loud enough to be painful (say, someone blasting an air horn in your ear), that noise is causing damage. But not at all what you are describing.

Always good to wear musician’s plugs to concerts, but go to the concerts and enjoy your life without worrying too much. Pick up an instrument, too, if you don’t play already, as it looks like musican training is hugely beneficial for an individual’s ability to perform speech in noise processing when they are older and have hearing loss.

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My concern was that urgent care diagnosed a middle-ear infection. This is diagnosed from otoscope visualization of a bulging eardrum and inflammation in the eardrum. There are a few assumptions here, but if this was indeed the case, you don’t want any avoidable delays in treatment. If the inflammation from the infection is great enough, you can get scarring or bone destruction that will permanently degrade hearing performance.

Full feeling and vibration sensing are also suggestive of fluid against the eardrum. I assume that the urgent care doc eliminated any fluid in the external canal. Then the source of the fluid would be in the middle ear, again highly suggestive of pus or serous fluid in a raging infection.

Pain level is variable in ear infections.

But since it’s been going on since early July, you’re probably right that a few more days won’t change things that much.

I mean, infection was the only thing that urgent care could really do something about. They could have given steroids if it was sudden loss, but given minimal hearing loss and the fact that steroid treatment for sudden loss isn’t a proven treatment anyway (and has some negative side effects), and also that sudden loss isn’t often that painful, probably better that they didn’t. I can think of a bunch of other things that it could be, but none of them are time sensitive so waiting for an ENT would be no problem. The couple of others I can think of that WOULD be a bit more time sensitive would have resulted in increasing pain or other symptoms that likely would have sent the poster back to the doctor.

But you didn’t know the time course when you initially posted. And concern for immediate attention in the case of sudden loss is standard and proper.

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Update: I went to the ENT today. He had me do a hearing test first. The technician said I showed normal hearing in each ear. I was pumped to hear that. Back with the doc, he said he did see a slight dip on the chart from the ear in question, but it could be nothing. He then just said to leave it be and wouldn’t prescribe anything. He said I may have had an infection, but now he wouldn’t worry about antibiotics. I was a little put off to be honest. My ear hurts. It feels clogged. It’s abnormal. I’m debating going to a different specialist. I’m a little lost to be honest.

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Does it feel better than before, or still hurting as bad earlier

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Have you been noticing improvement? If there’s still fluid behind the eardrum that can take a long time to clear up.

If not, try the dentist next. Pain can refer up into and around the ear from tooth issues (infection or grinding/clenching). If there is inflammation around the jaw there can easily be inflammation around the eustachian tube which would lead to fullness and pain. You can also get referring pain around the ear from pinched nerves in the neck, and a massage is an experimental treatment that seldom sucks.

You may not have found your solution yet, but normal hearing is still a good outcome and rules out a lot of problems.


What the heck? Didn’t he address your three symptoms? If he didn’t, definitely get another opinion, and don’t delay doing it. I know I tend toward the alarmist thoughts, but unless they can GUARANTEE that what you’re feeling is benign with clear diagnostics, then they could be doing you harm down the road. Hopefully not, but is it worth the risk?

Doctors today are pressured to make A diagnosis, any diagnosis, treat that, and get you out the door, whether your issues are addressed or not, and whether things are going to go terribly wrong later or not.

Go see someone else until your symptoms can be definitively diagnosed or else go away.