There are a variety of underlying infections which are commonly linked to ear pain when swallowing. Our nervous system connects our ear and throat quite closely. This makes it more likely for one area to become affected when the other is afflicted in some way. One example would be when a person has a middle ear infection. A blockage can occur in the Eustachian tubes which connect the pharynx and the middle ear; this causes ear pain when swallowing.
There are other symptoms of ear pain when swallowing; such as pressure in the ear when yawning or coughing. When one feels ear pain at the same time as swallowing food, it can be linked to nerve irritation. The nerves involved when swallowing are also linked to the ear, either directly or indirectly.
Ear Infection – One of the most obvious causes of an earache are ear infections regardless of whether the symptom itself has been aggravated. Patients who are affected by this can experience pain in the ear when swallowing, chewing, or engaging in any activity which focuses on the movement of those areas around the ear.
Mumps – While having mumps is not very common, it is a very contagious disease caused by a viral infection. Having ear pain when swallowing is not a direct symptom of having mumps. However, it is common for one to feel pain in the ear as a manifestation of mumps.
Tonsillitis – At the back of the throat one can find the tonsils. When these become infected it is referred to as tonsillitis. Some of the more common symptoms of tonsillitis are difficulty swallowing as well as mild to severe pain in the throat. A person can develop an earache as a complication of tonsillitis; when the cause is bacterial infection.
Blocked Eustachian Tube – There is a small canal called the Eustachian tube which links the middle ear to the back of the nose and the upper throat. It is responsible for regulating the air pressure within the middle ear and the pressure outside of its environment. When we yawn or swallow this tube will open. If the Eustachian tube become blocked or non-functional it can cause an ache in the inner ear when we swallow.
Peritonsillar Abscess (Quincy) – A major complication of the tonsils is known as peritonsillar abscess. It can also be a cause of both ear and throat pain when one swallows. Symptoms such as malaise, fever, and being unable to open the mouth are all conditions that can result from an individual suffering from this.
Thermal Laryngitis – When one has an injury to the larynx caused by heat, it is referred to as thermal laryngitis. Symptoms such as pain when swallowing, ear pain, hoarseness of the voice, throat soreness, and sometimes breathing difficulties are all a result of the laryngeal mucosa being affected.
Sore Throat – Quite often ear pain is associated with throat pain, or a sore throat. This is due to the middle ear and throat being connected anatomically by the cranial nerves (IX and X). It is because of this that some people will experience a sharp pain in the ear when swallowing (as a result of strep throat or sore throat). Experiencing ear pain while swallowing food or drinks can also affect those who have contact ulcers.
Sinusitis – A very apparent symptom of sinusitis is ear pain or feeling a sense of stuffiness in the ears. It is quite rare that ear pain when swallowing food is linked directly to sinusitis. What happens in such cases is that the pathogens which cause sinus infections move further into the throat. This can then lead to a throat infection. It is because of this that common symptoms of sinusitis can also include earache when swallowing.