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Ear pain when running with coolwind
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emheller posted:
Hello there-

I have had a problem with my ears since I can remember. However, even though I have grown out of most of the issues there is an exception when I exercise. If I go outside for a run or a bike ride and the temperature is cool or cold with a slight wind my ears ache much like a head ache. And the pain is enough to be debilitating which can last for about 30min or up to an hour until it calms down. I'm not sure if this is "swimmers ear" or something else. Also, I have experimented with sticking small cotton balls in my ears and then going to run and it seams to work ...can you tell me why or what it is happening and if I should be doing something else? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you, Emily
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Rod_Moser_PA_PhD responded:
I can think of one possibilities, Emily....Exercise-Induced Eustachian Tube Dysfunction?

Exercise increases blood supply to all parts of the body. Along with this increased proliferation of blood, comes tissue engorgement...this is why your skin becomes red or flushed. When the tissue engorgement is around your eustachian tubes -- those tiny ventilation tubes that run from your middle ear space (the area on the other side of your eardrum) to the back of your throat -- it may cause the tubes to malfunction.

If the eustachian tubes clog, your ears may feel full / stuffy, and your hearing could be a bit muffled, like they need to "pop". If the e-tubes lock in the "open" position (they are normally closed and only open briefly when we swallow), you may hear your own voice or an echo.

As long as this exercise-induced eustachian tube dysfunction resolves after you cool down, there is no need to be concerned. Unfortunately, there may be little that you can do to prevent this from occurring, other than reducing the intensity of your exercise.
 
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evil_queen_lisa responded:
Hi there! I have a similar problem in that whenever I go anywhere cold the bone just behind my ears and my ears will be in excrutiating pain. Wearing a hat helps somewhat.. but not enough. I try not to go outside in the winter anymore. If cotton balls works for you keep up with it! Perhaps also try those swimmers earplugs (the moldable ones) with a hat overtop?

Hope this improves for you!

evil_queen_lisa
 
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capoline responded:
I have the same problem but I don't always have to be exercising. Whenever I'm just walking and it's cold outside then after a few minutes my ears begin to hurt - somewhere deep inside. The pain starts slowly so I know when I have to get inside and warm up before the pain becomes unbearable. I've experienced this since I was a teenager. I have found that keeping my head and ears covered helps a great deal so it seems that the key is to not expose your ears to the cold. Sometimes if I do this then I don't feel any pain. I wish I could understand why others don't experience this. When I tell them they say "oh" and shrug their shoulders. I also wish that there was a permanent cure so that I can play sports outside. Even on seemingly warm days (about 60 - 75 degrees) I have this painful experience due to the wind going in my ear that's created by running. I don't know if that made sense. Anyway, I've never consulted a doctor about this but have been considering it lately. I would love to really understand and fix this problem.
 
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watruw8ing4 replied to evil_queen_lisa's response:
I think this description of this condition is better than anywhere else I've seen on the internet. Not really an ear ache - but an ache in/on the bone below and spreading from there. The longer one is in the environment that produced it, the worse it gets. No ear stuffiness or popping. Not always pain IN the ear at all, in my case. No wonder no one is able to offer a good reason for what is happening when we can't describe it accurately. I'm in my 50's and have had this since my teens. I gave up trying to get an explanation from my DRs years ago. But the 3 I did ask guessed that it was probably related to blood vessels near that bone and their reaction to the cooling skin (via evaporation and either expanding or constricting vessels). None took it seriously. But if you are prone to this, you know it can ruin your exercise plans, shorten your dog walks and keep you from enjoying many outdoor activities. And the pain can curl your toes. In my own case nothing relieves it (while still exercising or in the breeze causing it) except covering that bony area below the ear. I wear a headband that extends below the ear, or a hooded shirt. When I get caught without a covering, or in the summertime, when that hood or band would be uncomfortable or look ridiculous, I cover the area with my hand for a few minutes and, if I catch it early enough, it goes away. (People used to look at me like I was crazy. But now they just think I'm holding a cell phone to my ear). I realize this post is 3 years old. But hoping someone finds this and it helps. Also hoping someone reads it, recognizes it and offers explanation.
 
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Rod Moser, PA, PhD replied to watruw8ing4's response:
Your comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated, and will be a permanent part of this subject string.
 
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asg2010 replied to evil_queen_lisa's response:
I have the same exact pain! It hurts in the bones behind the ears and ears, even if the weather is not too cold and just a bit of wind. I cannot run outside in spring and autumn and even some windy summer days. I only feel somewhat better if I wear tight warm earmuffs. No one has been able to diagnose the issue.
 
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Rod Moser, PA, PhD replied to asg2010's response:
Not all human conditions have a diagnosis, but there may be an explanation. For some unknown reason, you have been blessed with an unusual amount of sensory nerves, in and around your ear. Those nerves are sensitive to temperature changes and react accordingly. If the tight earmuffs help, this may be your only solution. I don't believe there is a cure per se.
 
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tmaugha replied to Rod Moser, PA, PhD's response:
I have the exact same problem but only with one ear. It all started after an ear infection 30 years ago. I always wear ear muffs when outside and never drive a car with the window down, even in the summer. If I do, I will have an earache afterwards.
 
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nee11 replied to tmaugha's response:
I have this in my left ear.I just came in from taking the dog out,its a beautiful winter day and if it werent for the ear pain I could spend a whole day out there.The pain goes so deep,thought there ust be a reason,guess not but the solution is to really cover up
 
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Rod Moser, PA, PhD replied to nee11's response:
Keep your ear very warm and covered and you should not have any ear pain......
 
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tmaugha replied to Rod Moser, PA, PhD's response:
I agree that keeping your ear warm and covered seems to make a big difference, but it seems like there should be an answer as to why this is happening, in the first place. Could this be something simular to "Surfer's Ear"?
 
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Rod Moser, PA, PhD replied to tmaugha's response:
Nope. Surfer's ear is totally different. The constant cold water exposure forms an exostosis (a bony mass in the ear canal). All that is happening with cold wind is a sensory response to an abundance of nerves in the ear canal.

This is why it is happening. There are no permanent solutions or cures, just the preventative that was mentioned --- keeping the ears warm.
 
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wsachen replied to Rod_Moser_PA_PhD's response:
This makes complete sense. As I love running I had given up in the cold weather because of the pain... UNTIL I tried using some different ear plugs. The kind that you roll between your fingers first and then they expand in your ear (doesn't fall out and completely blocks any air from coming in.) These seem to make all the difference I needed with a skull cap over that, not to hold them in but just to keep my ears and head warmer. I am one of those people that even with minimal exercise I get the bright red face "increased proliferation of blood". I would be interested to know if this seems to be the case with others experiencing the same problem. The red faced athlete. Is our blood flow abnormal?

The only thing about this method is that you may have to get used to listening to yourself breath, which I actually found I like and maintain a better pace and breathing pattern. Any ways. Hope this helps someone in the future.
 
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Rod Moser, PA, PhD replied to wsachen's response:
Thanks for your comments and suggestions.


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