The ear lymph nodes are just one group of over 600 total lymph nodes present in the human body. When any of these lymph nodes swell, they have the ability to cause pain. Lymph nodes in the neck are one of the groups that swell the most frequently, according to the Mayo Clinic. Infection is generally the most common cause for such swelling.
Small bean-shaped organs located throughout your body, lymph nodes are part of your immune system, and they work in conjunction with the other immune system organs and cells. The white blood cells located inside the lymph nodes help protect against viruses and germs, as well as foreign substances. The majority of the 600 lymph nodes present in the body are located within the head and neck area.
There are two groups of ear lymph nodes. The group located in front of the ear is called the preauricular nodes, and the group directly behind the ear is known as sub occipital lymph nodes, according to the Loyloa University Medical Education Network. Ear lymph nodes are not the only lymph nodes located in the head and neck, but they are generally the lymph nodes involved in ear infections.
When a bacteria or virus is in the body, white blood cells from the lymph nodes in that particular body area are sent to fight it. This protective measure by our immune system causes the lymph node to swell as a natural response. Swelling of the ear (or other) lymph nodes can be an indication that an infection is present, and that the white blood cells are dealing with it. However, swelling also can be due to other reasons besides infection, such as injury, inflammation, and even cancer, according to the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
With infection and swelling of the ear lymph nodes generally comes pain, especially as the lymph node enlarges. And swelling of the lymph nodes due to infection or injury can potentially lead to hearing loss and earache. Ear noises, or buzzing sounds, are also possible, as is itching within the ear.
In addition to the pain that can be experienced due to infection and swelling of the ear lymph node, pain can be felt due to other symptoms that result from a swollen ear lymph node, which include pain from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and chills.