Ear pain: Is this related to my migraine or not?

Last year I wrote a blog post that was really helpful to me and to my loved ones who want to understand what it’s like to have frequent migraine attacks. (Many of you read the blog post and said it resonated with you—thank you for that. You can read the original post here.)

Researchers and doctors (and, through initiatives like migraine.com, patients, too) know a heck of a lot about migraine—WAY more than the world knew even five or ten years ago.  For this I am grateful.  That said, migraine disease is one of the most under-researched illnesses out there, especially considering its prevalence and effect on people’s quality of life and productivity.  We understand a lot about the illness, but it remains strange and quirky, and it manifests differently in every patient.  (This is why some people don’t even get a headache along with their migraine attacks and why no set of migraine triggers matches another.)

In the early days of my blog (back when I was writing anonymously and only for myself, never thinking anyone would read my writing), I would occasionally write about something strange I was experiencing, wondering aloud if it was related to migraine or not. As more and more people started reading the blog, I began hearing from other migraine sufferers.  “Hey, that weird thing happens to me, too,” they’d write, and I began to feel less alone.  Now there’s a LOT more information out there in books and online, so I don’t feel quite so crazy when I experience an atypical symptom.

I have found a little bit of information out there about ear pain or discomfort, but I have never been diagnosed with vestibular migraine, the type of migraine most often associated with ear pain/fullness.

For my entire life, my ears have started to hurt if I’m outside when it’s approximately 55 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.  My friends used to find this odd but are used to it now. (I end up having to warm my ears up with the palms of my hand if I don’t have a hat handy.)

In the last few years, I’ve had new symptoms related to my ears.  Most notable is the discomfort (not quite pain, but close) and sense of stuffiness I feel in my ears when I exercise for more than 20 minutes or so when it’s warm outside.  Just this afternoon I went for a 45-minute walk, and about 20 minutes into the walk, I felt this sudden onset of discomfort in my head, centered inside and near each of my ears.  I can’t really describe the feeling too well, but it’s not like the pain I feel in my ears when it’s cold outside.

It should be noted that I did not have a migraine at all today (or in the two days before this walk), and I don’t feel as if I’m getting one now, so I think this pain wasn’t the beginning of an episode.

Has anyone else had this kind of ear discomfort? Do you think it’s connected to migraine?  Help me out, hive mind, and definitely speak up if you have had this sort of pain/discomfort before.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (13)
  • dragonflylass
    4 years ago

    I am having ear pain & discomfort today, in fact! I have severe (debilitating) chronic migraine. I have always been very sound sensitive during a migraine episode. But since I’ve been in constant pain for the last year and a half, I have been extremely sensitive to sound. About a year ago my ears started ringing on an almost daily basis. Over the last several months I have had the stuffy feeling & ear popping. My ears also hurt when this happens & I have trouble hearing. I have noticed it is worse right after an extremely painful migraine episode ends.
    Nothing has helped so far. Suggestions would be fantastic!

    I also appreciate hearing that I am not alone in the issues we deal with as migraine sufferers. It is hard to explain these issues to those around me. It helps to know it’s not psychosomatic or abnormal. I wish none of us had to feel like this. But I feel a little better knowing I’m not alone.

  • myfiona33
    4 years ago

    My ears have always hurt when I would walk outside too. I find that wearing the ear buds from my ipod greatly reduces the discomfort. Strange, I never knew why they hurt, or that it happened to others.

  • Kathleen Wilson
    4 years ago

    My mother had several work ups for “ear problems”, at 80 finally diagnosed with migraine. I know my ear canal itches (allodynia) and becomes “painful?” in the cold too- I know what you mean when you say it is difficult to describe. When cool or cold out I make sure to keep my ears warm- saves “headaches” in the long run.

  • Elara moon
    5 years ago

    After my last child I had a lot of ear pain and ringing, fullness etc. I went to ENT dr and he couldn’t find anything wrong with me. All tests normal too. My neuro said it was side effect from migraines. It was on and off for about a year. Now 3 years later I really don’t get much ear pain. But still get my chronic migraines. Which is 2-3 days and I use zomig nasal spray and vicoprofen pain pills.

  • Teresa
    5 years ago

    Yes, for sure! I have chronic migraines following a ruptured brain aneurysm with subarachnoid hemorrhage 2 years ago. One of the worst side effects of the hemorrhage is residual ear pain. It can be absolutely maddening. Sooo painful. I had not experienced earaches since childhood and did not have migraines or even headaches before the incident. =(
    I guess the reason for my migraines may be different than a lot or most of the group @ migraine.com, but the group has been a lifesaver for me. I have had a headache of some degree everyday for the past 2+ years. That is a lot of days, but who is counting?! =\. I am truly blessed to be a survivor, since the majority of people with ruptured a/SAH die; but that is a whole different subject. My doc says, my ear pain is likely due to scar formation from the bleed. So we may be different, but I sure do feel your pain. Ear pain is ear pain and it hurts like heck regardless of the reason.
    Janet, you in particular have been a great help to me. I enjoy reading your blogs. They make me feel like I am not alone in my pain.
    Typing this just made me think of a question for ya’ll. I wonder….you know the analgesic ear drops children are sometimes prescribed for earaches? I think sometimes the drops contain codeine. Would they help reduce the pain of vestibular migraines? It would be localized, concentrated med put right where the source of the pain is. I visit my neurologist next week so I can ask my doc if y’all don’t know.
    Hummm, I wonder. ~(:\

  • Dolly Ward Paice
    5 years ago

    I was diagnosed with migraines in middle school and in high school was diagnosed with TMD. Ear pain is no stranger to me. Additionally, due to a dentist making an error in my dental care, I now have issues with my trigeminal nerve. It’s funny how I used to be able to tell where the migraines came from, the jaw or just my usual migraine now they’re hard to distinguish. To the point, I almost always have some sort of “zap” like pain that shoots through my ear, or an ache of sorts. Sometimes its accompanied with a “full” feeling sometimes it’s just the shooting pain warning me a migraine is imminent….

  • April
    5 years ago

    Cathi- I have the same thing with any kind of air blowing at me. When I used to ride the bus I would complain if the windows were open because the draft of air would give me a headache. My sister and bf get mad at me if I yell about any kind of draft. They think I’m nuts! I also get the cotton feeling in my ears and pain. I never figured out what causes it. It is only sporadic so I just deal with it. Two years ago I got a bump on my ear and major pain. I can’t remember what the doc said it was because I have fibrofog and a bad memory but I got irritated because they didn’t take it that serious. I really hate docs because they always treat me like I’m nuts.

  • rhonda shumway-luna
    5 years ago

    I went to the Dr complaining of ear ache. She said; “I don’t see a problem.” I asked her to look again. There was nothing that showed on the timpanic sp? membrane sp?, but she gave me a prescription for the ear, because it hurt so bad. Sorry, but I lost it and it won’t be long till I see her again. Does anybody get tired of pills, sprays, drops, etc? I do, am taking 40 plus a day as it is.
    My ears hurt more as time goes by and vary from a dull throb to shooting intense pain.
    Dr. said a certain nerve’s location next to the ear is triggered by a migraine.

  • Anne701
    5 years ago

    OMG, yes, yes, yes. I started having ear pain with migraines in the past 6-8 months. Just like the migraine feels line pressure from within my head, so do the earaches. First time I though I was coming down w/ an infection and I did my mega dose of Vit C.. After 2 days I knew my migraine were “mutating”. The placement and feeling of pain is changing. Prior to this I would feel extreme pressure behind my left eye. I’d try to keep a sense of humor and tell my friends that if they see my left eye pop out, put is back in for me. All pain used to be on the left. The changes are now my entire head. I’ve had pain caused from pressure in both ears. Early on I even got a Q-tip to check my ear. The pain was so bad I truly expected to see blood on the Q-tip. I could only imagine my eardrum must have been damaged by the level of pain.

  • Michele
    5 years ago

    I have quite similar experiences as you are describing, and I have never related it to migraine, but I never thought to put the two together. In addition to what you describe, any sort of wind, even if it is a house fan blowing on a warm day, if it hits my ears just right, it will cause ear pain or stuffiness. If you ever find the cause, I would be very interested in knowing!

  • Beth
    5 years ago

    I’ve been dealing with what I’ve been calling”allergy ears”. They are full and most of the time my left ear is making a constant humming noise. I never thought about it being related to a migraine but…since I was just diagnosed with migraines last month, I’m still learning!!

  • Anne701
    5 years ago

    Tinnitus can be related to the migraine syndrome. I have to fall asleep w/ the tv on to drown out the tinnitus noise.

  • Cathi Wilkinson
    5 years ago

    I’ve always had ear trouble, feeling like my ear was stuffed with cotton, then sharp pains shooting into it! Sometimes I have this with the headache and sometimes just a shooting pain. I also have to keep ears and mouth/nose covered if its cool or there’s any kind of wind, especially if it’s a cool wind…..I can’t even have the air conditioning vent pointed toward me in the car or I will get an instant headache! Just to many things to keep track of, I’ve almost quit trying to remember all the triggers, just let it go ahead and control my life

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