10 Reasons And Solutions Your Ears Hurt During/After Running

When you’re jogging, you may anticipate experiencing various unpleasant sensations like aching legs, tightness in the shoulders, or shortness of breath… although ear pain is likely not something that usually comes to mind.

Earache while running is quite frequent and could be caused by multiple causes.

No matter what the cause, strenuous exercise while experiencing ear pain can make it more intense – so it is essential to determine why it is occurring and to come up with a solution. And we’re here to help.

The Science Behind Ear Pain

Aching in the ears is usually caused by an alteration in pressure within the inner auditory organ. Numerous small changes in our physiology and/or environment can lead to this outcome.

Our ears are incredibly responsive and affected by shifts in pressure that can be attributed to a variety of physical reasons like muscle tightness, narrowing of arteries and veins, mucus build  up, obstructions, and even the health of your digestive system.

Environmental conditions like cold temperatures, elevation variations, and sharp inclines can lead to alterations in atmospheric pressure, resulting in ear pain while running.

The multiple components result in a build up of stress in the eustachian tubes of the ears. These link the auditory organ to the posterior of your throat and assist in keeping the air pressure even in your ears.

Moisture generated by perspiration in addition to blockages due to earwax build up and rapid temperature changes can cause your ear’s blood vessels to widen or contract. These modifications in pressure will evoke discomforts in the ear.

According to Emma Pyke from FitShape, ear pain that is experienced after running comes from the nerve endings at the end of the nerve canals, which don’t have enough protection, causing an unpleasant sensation post- run.

Reasons Why Ears Hurt During/After Running

Given that you have gained an understanding of the science related to earache, it is an opportune moment to explore the origins and means of avoiding it in more detail.

1. Tight jaw

Anthony Puopolo, Chief Medical Officer at RexMD, states that there is a major nerve that can be followed from the jawline to the eardrum.

Puopolo states that if someone runs while tightly gripping the jaw, grinding their teeth, or tensing up their facial muscles, they could be overly stimulating the nerve, resulting in discomfort.

Discomfort or tightness in a particular area of the body usually spreads to other areas. The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, links the jawbone to the cheekbone, and when this joint is under strain or the facial muscles get flexed it could bring about soreness in the jaw, neck, teeth, and even the ears.

Work on developing the habit of relaxing your face while you are running. If pain begins, reduce your speed, take it easy, and stretch the muscles in your face. Roll your neck from side to side and gradually resume running while keeping your face loose.

According to HealthyLand CEO Danielle Edenworth, runners can massage their ears before running in order to promote proper circulation and to ease any potential discomfort.

  • Try to be aware of what your body is doing as you run. Make it a habit to consciously loosen your jaw periodically so that your teeth don’t touch while you’re running.
  • Drink plenty of water before and during your run.
  • Address any extra stress in your life with calming techniques like deep breathing and yoga

2. Ill-fitting earphones

According to Dr Michael Newman, improper earphone sizing can lead to irritation and uneasiness from too much strain in the ear canal.

Dr Newman suggests that it is best to avoid earphones and headphones that sit directly on top of one’s ears if it is possible.

When purchasing headphones, seek ones that do not easily come off when worn, but still has enough space for air to flow in and out of the ears, as opposed to hooking on tightly.

Apple Airpods, the Jaybird Vista 2, and the Jabra Elite Active 75t are all excellent options when it comes to earphones. Be sure to clean your earphones after every use to prevent an accumulation of bacteria, which can lead to ear infections.

  • If you wear over-the-ear headphones and have discomfort from the pressure of the headphones pressing on your ears, consider trying earbuds.
  • Wear the correct earbud in each ear for a more comfortable fit. That too large bud might be pushing on the ear or simply blocking air flow.
  • If your ears get sweat in them, remove your earbuds and dry them off.
  • If you have a hard time finding earbuds that fit snugly and comfortably, you can get custom-made earbuds.

3. Loud music

The hazard of developing earaches while running is heightened when one chooses to listen to music at a high volume through earphones.

Hearing excessively loud music can be extremely detrimental. Not only could you be unaware of your surroundings, such as approaching vehicles, but it can also result in sensitivities in the ear, ruptured eardrums, and even total hearing loss.

Hearing high volume sound can ruin small hair cells and layers of the cochlea, an ossicle inside the interior auditory canal. These cells react to sound by shaking and if they are over-exposed, they can end up getting irreparably hurt.

  • If external noise is a problem, invest in noise-cancelling earbuds to help keep the noise out so you can play your music at a lower volume.
  • Pay attention to and follow volume warnings on your music device. Avoid listening to loud music and follow the volume warnings on your music device.
  • Try to alternate your runs so that you listen to music every other run, or listen to music only in one ear at a time and alternate ears.
  • Check out audiobooks and podcasts, which may not require such a high volume for you to be able to hear them.

Rather than playing music that’s too loud, try listening to podcasts or audiobooks at a lower volume. Research suggests that running without music can have calming effects, as well as many other benefits.

4. Cold air

Jogging, particularly when done for an extended time, can lead to the narrowing of your arteries, leading to an enhancement of pressure and tightness in your ears as you exercise.

According to Brian Paonessa, founder and CEO of Fit Functional Nurses, running in chilly temperatures can result in the constriction of blood vessels in the ears.

The arteries in the ears that carry blood can sometimes shrink due to cold air, resulting in decreased circulation in the ears. He states that the accumulation of oxygen in the interior of the ear may lead to an elevate in pressure.

You can wear earmuffs, a headband, or a hat when exercising in cold temperatures to keep your ears warm. You could try rubbing your ears while jogging to promote circulation and create heat in the ears.

5. Change in altitude

Going to a higher elevation can result in increased pressure in your ears. This leads to your blood vessels becoming narrowed, thus putting tension on your eardrums which causes suffering whenever you jog.

Dr Boyer suggests attempting various activities such as yawning, swallowing, or chewing gum as a method of relieving the pressure in the ears.

6. Ear infection or allergies

Dr Daniel Boyer explains that when the eustachian tubes – the narrow pathways in the ears that maintain equilibrium – become clogged due to ear infections or allergies, this can cause a build-up of pressure in the ears.

Certain long distance runners can acquire ear infections due to many causes like illness, being in cold temperatures for a long period, eustachian tubes being blocked, and taking a dip in the water, to name a few.

Other typical conditions may comprise of seasonal allergies, severe headaches, and sinusitis when running.

These ailments can amplify the pressure around compact spaces in your body which lead to aches, or can make any existing soreness worse when you experience discomfort in your ears after running.

  • If allergies are a common problem for you, consider taking daily allergy medicine to alleviate the symptoms and make exercise more comfortable.
  • Common symptoms of infection are pain, fever, tiredness, a feeling of pressure in the ear, and possible reduced hearing in that ear. If you experience any combination of these symptoms, see your doctor.

It is necessary to attend to such annoyances, for they can eventually lead to situations such as peri lymphatic fistula (PLF) in the ear.

Dr Boyer suggests that it is a good idea to consult a pharmacist or physician if you think your earache while running could be the result of an ear infection or allergy. Some signs to look out for are:

  • pain inside the ear
  • a high temperature
  • being sick
  • a lack of energy
  • difficulty hearing
  • discharge running out of the ear
  • a feeling of pressure or fullness inside the ear
  • itching and irritation in and around the ear

7. Earwax build-up

A stoppage in the Eustachian tubes could be caused by a collection of wax or perspiration in the hearing, with indications, including disorientation and fluctuating vision, if the obstruction is overwhelming.

You can purchase over the counter earwax removal kits or ear drops like Swimmer’s Ear if you think there might be an obstruction caused by wax or perspiration.

If the issue persists, consult a doctor as they may need to perform a professional procedure to remove them.

Clean your ears by having a hot shower straight after your exercise and make certain to dry them carefully with a towel by using your pointer finger. You can also experiment with sleeping in a seated position to help with any pain.

To provide quick relief, place a warm cloth against your ear while gently pushing down.

8. Constricted Blood Vessels

The alteration in pressure may lead to a narrowing of your blood vessels (vasoconstriction), resulting in pain. This is something that happens often and can be attributed to multiple causes.

The ears are among the initial areas to experience vasoconstriction as they are particularly exposed.

Runners often experience constricted blood vessels due to the changes in altitude or cold temperatures as the nerves found in the ear canal are not protected but still sensitive to temperature shifts. And cold ears hurt!

  • Wear proper cold weather gear (like a headband or running hat) so that your ears stay warm enough.
  • Avoid running in high altitudes. If you can’t avoid it, try chewing gum, yawning, or swallowing to open the Eustachian tube and relieve the pressure.
  • Try to massage your ears during your run in the winter to generate blood flow (and warmth) to your ears.
  • Limit how much salt you intake.

9. GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is an ailment where the stomach’s acidic components flow back into the oesophagus, resulting in heartburn, uneasiness in the stomach, hoarseness, and a sore throat.

It can seem strange that stomach acids can lead to ear discomfort, yet a good portion of those with GERD experience ear pain when participating in physical activity due to upheaval of liquids. The worse the action, the more extreme the agony.

Even though it may not appear serious, GERD signs can result in persistent problems if it is not addressed quickly.

  • Try to wait at least a few hours after eating before you run.
  • Avoid eating acidic foods, which can exacerbate GERD symptoms.
  • If you are experiencing symptoms of GERD, talk with your doctor about possible treatment options to reduce or eliminate your symptoms.

10. Perforated Tympanic Membrane (Ruptured Eardrum)

There is a tear in the thin tissue known as the tympanic membrane that separates the ear canal from the middle ear, which is known as a ruptured eardrum. There are various factors that may be the source of the problem, such as ear infections, injuries, exposure to loud noises, and abrupt variations in air pressure.

Signs of a damaged eardrum may include pain, drainage from the ear, tinnitus, hearing impairment, imbalance, and even sickness. It should be noted that the feeling of pain will remain even when you are not engaging in physical activity.

Even though jogging is not typically the root of a burst eardrum, it can exacerbate the issue.

  • Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely stop your ears from hurting after running when you have a ruptured eardrum.
  • If the pain persists, consider taking a break from running until your symptoms improve slightly.

Running can cause ear pain for some people, and it’s important to be aware of common causes so you can properly deal with the issue.

Do not disregard your symptoms if you find your ears are painful subsequent to running. Spend a few minutes contemplating why you may be feeling the discomfort so that you can tackle the issue.

If you are not certain why your ears are aching after running, or you have other symptoms like chest discomfort, go to your doctor right away. High blood pressure could be a probable cause.


Ears are surprisingly sensitive. One of the primary sources of ear soreness is altering the atmospheric pressure in the ears. Slight changes in the atmosphere or even within your body can alter the force enough to create ear soreness.


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