When you have a cold or the flu, it’s not just the symptoms like sinus pressure and runny nose that make you feel awful – often times, one symptom will lead to another. Ear congestion is just one example of an uncomfortable side effect that can come from dealing with conditions impacting your sinuses, nose, or throat.
What Happens When There’s Ear Pressure
The Eustachian tube is a narrow passageway that connects your middle ear to your throat. It acts as a valve by opening when you sneeze, swallow, or yawn to equalise the pressure in your middle ear.
This mechanism prevents air pressure and fluid from accumulating inside your ear canal behind your eardrum.
When the Eustachian tube is blocked, you may not hear as sounds are muffled. It’s quite common to discomfort, and even pressure in your ear area.
Air travel and changes in altitude can also cause your Eustachian tube not to function optimally.
6 Causes of Ear Pressure
The most common cause of ear pressure is sinus congestion. When your sinuses are blocked or filled with fluid, it can put pressure on the eardrum and surrounding areas.
This can happen due to allergies, colds, or even a deviated septum. If you have a sinus infection, the pressure can become intense and may even cause pain.
Another common cause of ear pressure is allergies. If you have seasonal allergies or other types of allergies, they can trigger congestion in the nose and sinuses. This can lead to a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears.
Colds and Flu
Colds and the flu are another common cause of ear pressure. These illnesses can cause congestion and inflammation in the nose and sinuses. This can lead to a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears.
Ear infections are a common cause of ear pressure. They often occur after a cold or the flu. The infection can cause swelling and inflammation in the ear canal. This can lead to a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears.
Earwax is produced by the body to protect the ears from dirt and debris. However, sometimes earwax can build up and block the ear canal. This can lead to a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears.
In rare cases, tumors can cause ear pressure. Tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumors are usually not a cause for concern. However, malignant tumors need to be treated by a doctor.
Migraines can sometimes cause ear pressure. This is because migraines can cause the blood vessels in the brain to swell. This can lead to a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears.
Allergies can also cause ear pressure. Allergies can cause the sinuses to swell, which can lead to a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears.
Changes in air pressure can also cause ear pressure. This is especially common during air travel. When the plane takes off, the change in pressure can cause the ears to feel blocked or full. The same thing can happen when the plane lands.
Acid reflux can also cause ear pressure. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus. This can cause a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears.
In other words, the acid can travel from your stomach to your nose and sinuses (for example, when you are lying down asleep), and this acid can inflame the nose or irritate the lining. This problem is more common in children—but adults may also experience it.
There are a few things that you can do to help relieve the feeling of pressure or fullness in your ears.
1. Yawning or swallowing often helps open the Eustachian tubes and equalize the pressure in the ears.
2. Chewing gum also helps because it causes you to swallow more often.
3. If you are flying, drink plenty of fluids and avoid sleeping during takeoff and landing.
4. Try to pop your ears by pressing on the tragus, which is the little cartilage flap in front of your ear canal. You can also try this Valsalva maneuver: Pinch your nose shut and gently blow as if you’re trying to blow your nose.
5. If you have any pain, try putting a warm cloth over your ears or taking ibuprofen.
6. If the pressure changes are due to a sinus infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
7. In some cases, a decongestant spray or oral decongestant can help.
8. If the Eustachian tubes are blocked due to enlarged adenoids, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove them.
9. In very rare cases, a myringotomy (a tiny incision in the eardrum) may be necessary to relieve pressure.”
10. If the Eustachian tubes are blocked due to enlarged adenoids, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove them.
If you are experiencing consistent ear pressure or pain, it is recommended that you consult an ENT specialist and have your ear checked.