Why do your Ears Hurt After Running?

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After you’ve just finished a run, you can expect to be in a little bit of discomfort. Your calves might ache, your lungs might be burning, you might be doubled over with abdominal cramps. In some cases, these signals point to improper technique, or overexertion. In others, you might be experiencing pain of a kind that doesn’t appear to make any sense.

Ear pain is a surprisingly common complaint of frequent runners. But since the ears aren’t really involved in the actual mechanics of running, it seems strange that they should be effected by it.

This is a problem with several possible causes. Let’s examine a few of the more common.

Ruptured Eardrums

If you’re experiencing hearing loss, then this might point to a ruptured eardrum. This involves a tear in the tissue of the drum itself. These are typically caused by single one-off sounds, like gunshots or heavy metal concerts. During exercise, the pain associated with this problem can be exacerbated. You can get this diagnosed by a doctor, or take a hearing test online .

Outsized earbuds

If you’re listening to music on earphones which don’t quite fit the shape of your ear, then you can expect a little bit of pain. When the pain you experience correlates to the length of your run, the chances become stronger that it’s the earbuds to blame. Try running without them and see if the problem goes away. If it does, then it might be time to invest in better earbuds – perhaps even earbuds which are moulded to your ears.

The Cold

When it’s cold outside, your ears are going to go numb. The same shape which allows them to collect sound and funnel it into your ear canal will also cause them to radiate heat outwards. You can get around this problem quite easily by simply wearing a beanie. Or, you can head inside during winter and run on a treadmill.

If the pain is severe, then you might be suffering from vasoconstriction. This is a normal process of dilation of the blood vessels, which occurs in response to higher blood pressures. If you’re training at altitude, or in really cold conditions, this can actually be quite painful. 

Clenched Jaw

If your teeth are locked together while you’re running, then you’ll put strain on the joint that attaches the jawbone to the skull . The problem here is that this will radiate pressure out into the ear.

The easiest way to prevent this is to stop grinding your teeth while running. Exactly how this might be done is a little more difficult, as you might subconsciously revert to bad habits. Make a relaxed jaw part of your running technique, and issue yourself regular reminders to not do it when you’re out there.

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