Ear numbness: 10 Causes, Diagnosis, 4 Treatments

Ear numbness can be annoying and trouble us in our daily life. Let us learn how to diagnose ear numbness, what causes it and its treatment.

Numbness is usually caused by inflammation, damage, irritation or the compression of nerves. When it comes to the ear, mostly partial numbness is experienced.  This partial numbness otherwise known as a Paresthesia should not only be regarded as an irritant but should also be viewed as an indication of a much more serious underlying condition.

Ear numbness is characterized as a tingly, burning, pricking, and mildly piercing sensation. It could also feel like a mild shooting pain with an electric current like a mild shock when touched.

Ear numbness develops on the patient’s ear in phases. Ear numbness in most cases begins as a tingling sensation otherwise known as Paresthesia and may advance to full-blown numbness soon afterward.

At times the patient may experience a gradual decrease in sensation (numbness) coupled with heightened sensation at specific times. These two sensations occur interchangeably to form a very uncomfortable mix that leaves patients in agony.

So if you are experiencing tingling in ear or a numbing of any or both of your ears make a point to have your ear(s) checked out by a qualified physician. Ignoring the issue or taking it lightly could only serve to complicate matters in the future especially if the tingling sensations are a telltale sign of a serious underlying issue.

As stated earlier, any sensations of burning, tingling, or numbness are usually indicative of a sensory nerve being interfered with or damaged. Causes of ear numbness may also depend on the severity of the shooting pain sensations. With this mind, it is important to, therefore, pay attention to the causes of this affliction.

Causes of Ear Numbness:

ear numbness
Ear numbness
Image source: healthhype.com

Below are few of the possible causes of ear numbness;

Injury to the Ear:

This is probably the most common cause of ear numbness. This injury may come about as a blow to the ear using a sharp object that causes a deep cut on the outer ear. Blunt force trauma could also cause ear numbness due to the impact between the outer ear and the opposing surface.

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Blunt force trauma could be occasioned by a blow to the ear during contact sports like Boxing, wrestling, Football, and Soccer.  Ear numbness due to physical trauma happens when the sensory nerves of the ear get damaged. This may lead to a burning or tingling sensation.

Blockage by the Earwax:

Earwax is very beneficial to the ear. It helps in moisturising the skin of the ear canal to prevent the drying and eventual itching of the ear. Ear wax also shields the inner ear from dust and dirt particles that could cause damage while also fighting infections through special chemicals contained in the earwax.

Despite all these glittering attributes, ear wax can be quite harmful if allowed to accumulate in large amounts. When earwax hardens after extended periods of accumulation, it could cause a block to the external ear canal.

This cause’s ear numbness accompanied by other symptoms such as; pain in the ear, itching of the ear, a ring in the ear, and hearing impairment.

Foreign Object in the Ear:

Sticking foreign objects in your ear is never advisable. Although there are times when it could be necessary; such as when you need to clean the ear, and during scratching in case of a mild itch. This should be done with extreme care though because a little bit of carelessness could damage your inner ear and adversely affect your hearing.

Children are most at risk here. You may not be able to watch over your children all the time, but while you’re away ensure there is someone around who cares enough to prevent your child from inserting dangerous objects into their ear. Foreign objects could cause infections, pain in the ear, and a loss of hearing ability.

The Common Cold:

Catching a common cold can also lead to ear numbness. When the cold is advanced and serious, it leads to complications such as an infected chest and also ear numbness.

Catching the Swimmer’s Ear:

The swimmer’s ear is an external carnal infection brought about by entrapment of water in the ear. The presence of trapped water in the ear gives rise to fungal and bacterial organisms which multiply over time. In severe cases, this bacteria and fungi could cause a hearing loss, discoloration of the ear, a numb earlobe and pain in the ear.

Mild Ear Frostbite:

Frostbite refers to damage to the tissue due to exposure to cold conditions that are below 32F or 0C. Anyone who is suspected to have frostbite should not have any wet clothing on their bodies. The natural and impulsive thing to do would be to rub the affected area in an attempt to warm it.

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This is a bad idea and would only result in more tissue damage. A better idea would be to seek the help of a doctor who will help rewarm the affected area without risk of aggravating the injury.

Mild frostbite to the ear will cause not only painful discomfort but also ear numbness. Frostbites very rarely occur in people living in the tropics but are most likely to happen to people who like to camp, ski, and hunt in temperate snowy environments.

Suffering a Stroke:

A stroke is an unfortunate occurrence that leaves the patient reeling. It happens when there is a disruption or hindrance to the blood supply to the brain. Ischemia or hemorrhage can cause this in the brain’s blood vessels.

A stroke usually leaves a trail of disaster in its wake. If a patient is lucky to survive one, then they are likely to suffer afflictions like paralysis, dropping of the lower face, and an impaired speech. Ear numbness is one other affliction that a stroke could cause.

Diabetes Mellitus:

Diabetes has risen through the ranks to become a top killer overtaking some of the most feared afflictions in recent history such as HIV/AIDS, and Cancer.

Diabetes can, however, be controlled by observing regular appropriate exercises as well as following a strict healthy diet as recommended by your doctor. Considerable harm will befall any patient who poorly controls their diabetes though.

Uncontrolled diabetes usually brings about peripheral neuropathy; a condition which gives rise to a tingling sensation and numbness in the bodies extremities such as legs and arms as well as on the face including the ears.

Ear numbness can therefore also be as a result of diabetes. This stresses the need to have tingly ears checked out by a doctor since it could indicate a serious underlying condition.

The Compression of Cranial Nerves:

Trauma such as an injury can cause compression of cranial nerves to the head due to the occurrence of a vehicle accident, a blow to the head during contact sports such as rugby, soccer and football.

Cranial nerve compression can also be brought about by a growth that piles pressure on the cranial nerves. Cranial nerve compression causes a numbing to the face as well as ear numbness.

Peripheral Neuropathy:

This was earlier discussed as a byproduct of badly controlled Diabetes Mellitus. It is, however, a condition on its own which can be brought about by systemic infections of disease to the body, serious ear injury, and exposure to environmental toxins.

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Peripheral neuropathy can be characterized by a burning sensation, tingling, pricking or a shooting pain sensation. Ear numbness is also observed in patients suffering from peripheral neuropathy.

Diagnosis of Ear Numbness:

For a doctor to make a proper diagnosis, he or she will need to know if there are other symptoms besides tingling and numbing of the ear. Some of the symptoms a doctor will look for include;

  • Numbness in the face
  • A ring in the ears
  • Nauseating feeling
  • Pus emanating from the ear
  • Impaired vision
  • Feelings of dizziness

These symptoms coupled with ear numbness and ear-tingling could be indicative of a more serious condition such as; Meniere’s disease, Labyrinthitis, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus.

Now that we have established the causes of ear numbness and how it is diagnosed let’s look at some of the remedies available.

Treatment for Ear Numbness:

Application of Essential Oils:

Essential oils such as cypress oil and lavender oil contain properties that quell body inflammation while repairing the bodies damaged sensory nerves, which eventually restores their functioning. A good massage session using these oil formulations should do the trick.

A Good Tender Massage:

A good massage reduces the constant tingling in your body while also enhancing blood circulation. This is very beneficial to your body’s nervous system since it restores the functioning of any damaged nerves.

A Mildly Hot Compress:

A hot compress should be held on the affected area for a few minutes regularly since it helps enhance blood circulation and restores the functioning of damaged nerves.

Yoghurt:

How about that for a remedy? Any patient would love a yoghurt prescription from a doctor since yoghurt is well liked by so many. Yoghurt contains manganese, which helps increase blood circulation and helps repair damaged nerves.

In conclusion, ear numbness should never be ignored since it could be a symptom of a serious underlying issue. In case it occurs, try some of the home remedies detailed here, and if symptoms persist seek the help of a doctor.

References:
  1. http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/sym/ear_numbness.htm
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/numbness/basics/causes/sym-20050938
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/ear-numbness
  4. https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/earwax.html
  5. http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/effective-home-remedies-to-treat-tingling-sensation/#gref

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