Experiencing Pressure in Your Ear? Here’s What You Need to Know



There is a small passageway linking the middle ear to your throat, known as the Eustachian tube. Its purpose is to help equalize air pressure between the middle ear and the outside world. If the eustachian tube stops functioning properly or becomes blocked, air pressure in the middle ear can become unbalanced. Certain conditions, especially mucus secretions and tissue inflammation, can disrupt its function, causing ear pressure and pain.

What Can Cause Pressure in Your Ears?

Some common causes of ear pressure are:

Sinus Issues

Congested sinuses can create middle ear pressure and a feeling of fullness.

Causes of sinus-related congestion include:

  • Tobacco smoke and similar environmental irritants
  • Allergies
  • Sinus infection
  • Viral infections such as the common cold or flu

Treatment and preventive measures

  • Use a nasal decongestant to relieve congestion in the upper respiratory tract
  • Drink vegetable juices, herbal teas, broths, and water every two hours during the day to loosen your mucus
  • Use a saline solution or a neti pot to irrigate your nasal cavities
  • Inhale eucalyptus oil to open up your airways
  • Use a humidifier to keep the air moist as dry air can irritate your inflamed nasal passages

Ear Wax Buildup

If ear wax blocks the full width of your ear canal or gets pushed deep into it, it can result in dizziness, ear pain/ pressure, tinnitus, or hearing loss.

Causes of earwax blockage include:

  • Use of Q-tips or other similar items, which can force wax further into the ear
  • Frequent use of hearing aids or earplugs

Possible treatment/ Preventive measures

  • Restricting Q-tip use to visible portion of ear
  • Over-the-counter irrigation kits
  • Wax removal done by an M.D., R.N., or audiologist

Fluid Buidlup

Another possible result of Eustachian tube dysfunction is fluid buildup behind the eardrums. This might result in ear pressure, a feeling of fullness, popping and/or ringing in the ears, dizziness or imbalance, and hearing loss.

Causes of fluid buildup include:

  • Sinus infections
  • Ear barotrauma (damage caused by pressure)
  • Colds or other respiratory infections
  • Allergies

Possible treatment/ Preventive measures

  • Warm compresses
  • Over-the-counter decongestants
  • Your doctor may prescribe more aggressive medications

Middle Ear and Outer Ear Infection

A virus-induced respiratory infection can lead to otitis media (middle ear infection), with symptoms like dizziness, ear pain/pressure, and hearing loss. Swimmer’s ear is an outer ear infection (otitis externa) caused by water remaining in your ear after bathing or swimming. This provides a perfect breeding ground for infection-causing bacteria, resulting in fluid buildup and swelling.

Possible treatment/ Preventive measures

  • Over-the-counter ear drops and pain medication
  • Antibiotics, as prescribed by an M.D.

External Factors Resulting in Ear Pressure

Air Travel

The rapid change in air pressure during takeoff and landing can create a pressure differential between the environment and your middle ear, preventing your eardrum from vibrating as usual. Ear pain and pressure caused by this is a condition referred to as airplane ears.

Possible treatment/Preventive measures

  • Try yawning, chewing gum, and swallowing to open the eustachian tube.
  • Use filtered earplugs to balance the ear pressure.
  • Use of an over-the-counter decongestant before landing and takeoff.
  • Gently blow through your nose while pinching your nostrils.

Allergies

Allergens such as molds, pollen, or pet dander can cause mucus buildup and nasal passage inflammation, affecting the Eustachian tube and creating pressure in the ears.

Possible treatment/ Preventive measures

  • Use of over-the-counter decongestants and allergy-relieving medications.
  • Visit your M.D. for an allergy workup.

To learn more about ear pressure and to get your hearing tested, schedule an appointment with Dr. Chris Hoffmann today!


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Chris Lin Hoffmann

Dr. Chris Hoffmann is an audiologist who has been involved in hearing sciences for over 20 years. Her passion for helping people with their hearing led her to establish Hoffmann Audiology hearing clinic. Dr. Hoffmann has more than 14 years of clinical knowledge in hearing testing, hearing aid fittings, and aural rehabilitation.