There are hundreds of lymph nodes in the body, and they are constantly filtering lymph fluid and snares for foreign elements. The ones located behind the ear are the postauricular lymph nodes.

The mastoid nodes and the occipital lymph nodes location are near the postauricular lymph nodes. They commonly go unnoticed until they swell up, which can be caused by a variety of health issues.

Though swollen nodes can be a sign of cancer or other serious condition, it often is caused by an infection near the site of the swelling. Tests can be done by a health care professional to determine the reason for the enlargement.

Discovering an Enlarged Lymph Nodes

When a lymph node behind the ear begins to swell, it may not be noticed at first. For someone with short hair, long hair pulled back, or who is bald, it will be more visible. Below are other possible ways of noticing swelling behind the ear:

  • Brushing hair
  • Showering
  • Putting on jewelry
  • Getting a hair cut

An enlarged or swollen node may be noticed because of its size, or it may be noticed because it is sensitive or painful. There are only a few of the hundreds of lymph nodes in the body that are located behind the ear. These nodes filter lymph from the scalp and head.

Cause Of Pain Or Discomfort Behind The Ear

Enlarged lymph nodes are just one of the causes of ear pain. When there is an infection in the inner or outer ear, the postauricular lymph nodes may swell up to help with fighting the disease. It can be from an infection anywhere on the head including the following:

  • Scalp
  • Sinuses
  • Eyes
  • Nose
  • Skin
  • Sinus

Ear pain can also be caused by an ear infection, excessive wax, cavity, injury, or a foreign object in the ear. A medical professional will need to do an exam to determine the cause of ear pain. Untreated ear pain can lead to hearing loss so it should not be ignored. If an enlarged lymph node causes it, it will be important to rule out any serious health condition like cancer.

Cancer And Enlarged Lymph Nodes

A swollen lymph node, usually, just means that there is an infection in the area, but it can also be a sign of cancer (Symptoms of Cancer – It can be from a tumor near the site of the node, or the cancer can be in some other area of the body. Also, the cells could have moved from the original site to other parts of the body via the lymph system. If there is concern that the swelling is caused from cancer, a biopsy of the lymph node will be necessary. The biopsy will require the node to be removed. This procedure can interfere with the flow of lymph fluid.


Most swollen lymph nodes return to normal shortly after the infection has been treated but others are from symptoms of more serious health issues.