When I peered into the guest’s ear, the drum looked normal, so there was no middle-ear infection. When I pulled his earlobe, it hurt but not a great deal. In an external infection (swimmer’s ear), pulling is very painful.
Many adults with ear pain don’t have an infection (children are a different matter). I pressed a finger to his temple in front of the ear and asked him to open his mouth. That hurt badly. He had pain in the temperomandibular (jaw) joint.
The jaw joint is no different from the knee, ankle, or shoulder joint. You can injure it, or it can hurt for no obvious reason. This is common, but I can’t remember the last time someone complained of jaw pain. They tell me it’s an earache.
Flying with a middle-ear infection is a bad idea but no problem with jaw pain, so the diagnosis is good news, but guests are skeptical. Ear pain means an ear infection, and pain medicine lacks the cache of an antibiotic. Guests often make it clear that they’re not getting their money’s worth.