Outer ear pain while sleeping


My mother has developed what seems like very sensitive ears lately. I mean she has been using the same pillow for years. It is an orthopaedic pillow for her neck coz she has arthritis and she has never complained about it. But lately, she cannot stand the pain on her outer ears when she sleeps on this pillow. It seems the pressure is hurting her ears and they becomed red and swollen. She changed her pillow to a very soft one but the same happened. What is strange is that sometimes she does not feel this pain at all for several days and she always sleeps on her side. But then the pain comes back on both ears. Anyone had this and is there a solution?

Showing comment 1 to 15 from a total of 29 comments

I too have this ear pain and have not found an explanation. It is only my outer ear. I read on one website (sorry, don't remember which) that some believe it is related to circulation. I am wondering if this may be a good explanation. I am five months pregnant and my ears have been worse since becoming pregnant. I often sleep on my right side, which doctors recommend not to when pregnant because of circulation. Though I try not too, I often wake up on my right side with my ear throbbing. I thank anyone who might have ideas or recommendations. I've tried switching pillows and I'm about to cut a foam circle to place around my ear to hopefully relieve the pressure. Good luck!


This reply is for bertbert3 in particular...I too am pregnant and my outer ear pain has worsened AND affects my left ear as well as my right.

The pain itself occurs when I lay on one side for too long or even if I touch the flat cartilage part near the entrance of my ear canal.

HOWEVER, I've been seeing an acupuncturist twice monthly and it has helped immensely.

The pain used to be manageable with yoga alone before, but I can't do as much with a pregnant body.

Western (or allopathic) medicine doesn't have a real understanding for this problem.

However Eastern medicine (Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, Yoga etc) understand the ear soreness to be connected to (or resulting from) discomfort in the spine and lower back.

If you're willing to try acupuncture you might get some relief.


I've had the same problem for 20 years or so. Comes and goes, as well as makes it hard to use most earphones or headphones. I get some relief from using a memory foam pillow for side sleepers. The cost is about $40. SmilingAuthor: thanks for the accupuncture suggestion. That's the one thing I haven't tried!


Thank goodness! I was beginning to wonder if I was dreaming about the terrible throbbing in whichever ear I am lying on, that wakes me up in the night. Although I have suffered with this for some years on and off, since becoming pregnant it occurs every night. I also have similar throbbing in my hips and wondered if anyone else has? I have heard of related back pain which have sometimes suffered as well. Has anyone had any success getting advice from a doctor? I am convinced they think I am making it up. If only I could visit in the middle of the night when the pain is so bad!


I've talked with a few gp's over the years, saw an ENT about it, two dentists, an orthodontist and two TMJ specialists. All I ever get is "Hmmm...I don't know what that is." I keep hoping a physician will be poking around in one of these forums and take an interest in finding out.


I have had the same problem for years. Now that I am pregnant it wakes me up several times a night and I have to change sides that I lay my head on, only for the pain to switch back to that side. Sad I think sleeping on my back may help, but I am pregnant. I have also switched pillows to try to keep my head higher, to no avail.

I have Raynauds Syndrome, so the circulation as a cause, is surely an option for me. This ear condition has become way worse now that I am pregnant, I am at 6 months now. I will chat with my Dr. but imagine it will be much of the same... Hmm...

I am a huge proponent of acupuncture, so that will be my first venture.


I have had this problem for about 5 years now....AND I THINK I FIGURED OUT THE ISSUE!!!! (At least my issue). I would love to help others because I have been sleep deprived for this long now!!
It is my hair, my hair is compressing my ear down, therefore it is not gettng enough circulation. Now that I FINALLY figured it out, when I wake up with the pain, I put my hand up by the top part of my ear and I can feel the strands of hair pulled very tight across my ear! I sure hope this helps, I am sleeping better now. I have also tried bobby pins and pony tails now that I know the problem, but sometime they do not hold my hair back like I would like. Again good luck, I hope this is your solution too!!!!!!


I have also tried the temperpedic pillow which helped in the beginning, but now I know it is my hair that is causing the issue!


Here is a thought & a way to help.

I too have the same issue. It is so tender that touching it almost has me want to cry. I cant find the answer to why.

* But what I have found to stop it fast is to slowly tug on the ear ever-so gently & hold it a few seconds. After a few seconds try a different direction till all pain is gone.

I am suspecting. seeing this helps. somehow the cartilage is dislocating itself. When it is allowed to "pop back into place" then the pinching of some nerve is stopped (blood supply returned?) & the pain goes away in 1-2 min or less. (seconds most of the time)

I have also read about the back/tail bone pain association. I have chronic pain in the lower back/tail bone, but meds take care of it.

About acupuncture. They have many times placed needles in the outer ear to help pain elsewhere! (does not hurt. VERY TINY needles!) They claim different spots are associated w/ different body parts. (same w/ feet & hands etc) (weird?)
So there may be a connection. They have placed needles there for my back pain issue!

But that would not explain why tugging on the ear for a few seconds makes it better? (unless like acupressure?)

*I have my money on movement of the cartilage. Almost like a small dislocation. How to "fix" forever???

I am frustrated at doctors not listening or don't seem to care. (seems common w/ allot today!) IT HURTS!

I have tried many different pillows & that does not seem to be the answer. I think I maybe lay hard on it & move around dislocating it.
I am not sure, but the tugging works to stop the current pain.


For years now, I have had outer ear pain while sleeping. I find that if I position my pillow with a depression where my ear will lie, this helps.

I have also noticed that relative to my family members, my ear cartilage is very stiff. My husband and kids can all bend their floppy cartilage so that the top of their ear and their lobe meet, and they can do so without any pain at all. They can bend their ears forward from the middle so that they practically cover the ear canal--still no pain. I cannot do either of these things. I suspect that my stiff ear cartilage is the cause of the ear pain when I sleep. The pressure on the ear between my head and the pillow causes the pain as the cartilage is pushed out of place. If I had floppy ears, they might not notice the pressure.

I also cannot wear earmuffs or ear buds. They make my ears ache terribly. Again, I think this is because the earmuffs and ear buds push my cartilage out of its preferred position. Thankfully, my glasses don't seem to cause ear pain.

Do any of you also have stiff ear cartilage? I assume having stiff cartilage is just bad luck and there is probably not much that can be done about it.


I have had this condition for over 20 years. I have considered it my thorn in the flesh. Doctors have been of no help. They have only found that it is a circulatory issue in the cartilage itself. They have found no physical malnormity and a sleep study showed nothing.
The only relief that I have had is by using earplugs and use a feather pillow. I also have a chunk of my hair that I put behind my ear as I sleep. All of this helps me to be a sane person during the day; otherwise with no sleep, i am horrible to live with!
I hope that this helps someone else to cope with this.


I too suffered for years with this problem ,till I found that masaging and pulling the cartilage in different directions till I hear a popping sound ,makes the pain disappear ,also try to avoid pressure on the ear by making a hollow in the pillow where the ear rests ,or make a circle of foam or soft material with a hole in the middle to fit around the ear so there wont be pressure .
Hope this helps !


I just found a website that sells the little earpillows that fit around the ear to avoid pressure onthe ear , but you can easily make it yourselves


What is the website please?


I have had the problem for approximately 20 years. It developed when I needed to be on the phone much of my work day. It was the older style office phone and my employer would not purchase a phone headset. I rarely use a phone today, as it is still bothersome when I do. It feels much like a bruised body area, but it definitely is not bruised. I think it is nerve or cartilage damage. I am a side sleeper and have to avoid the side that has the pain. Even slight pressure makes it much more unbearable. I like the idea of acupuncture. I would not have thought of that. I no longer mention it to my doctor because s/he looks at me like I am crazy; when in fact it makes me miserable.

Post A Reply
You are viewing page 1 of 2
Must Read
Chronic pain affects more than 70 million Americans. But what is pain? And how can pain management help relieve different types of pain? Basic facts here....
How does the nervous system work to register pain? And what are the major causes of acute and chronic pain? Plus, who's at risk of pain here....
Acute and chronic pain manifest different symptoms. Learn the difference here and know when to seek medical help for pain....