Ear pressure can feel very uncomfortable, and if it’s an ongoing problem, it can interfere with daily life. The feeling of ear pressure pain can be fleeting, for example during a plane flight, or be persistent and require treatment. You may experience pressure in both ears or the sensation may only affect one ear. Either way, the discomfort from ear pressure can be significant. Here, we’ll look into the symptoms and causes of ear pressure, plus offer advice on how to relieve pressure in ears and prevent it from returning.
Symptoms Of Ear Pressure
Ear pressure feels like a fullness in the ears. There is a sensation of stuffiness inside of the ear that does not go away on its own. There are also some accompanying symptoms of ear pressure that can develop depending on the cause of ear pressure. These include:
- Dizziness – dizziness and congestion can be linked to vertigo, when calcium crystals in the inner ear migrate
- Ear pressure pain – the pressure build-up inside the ear can be painful, even more so if there is pressure in both ears
- Blocked ears – those who experience ear pressure often report that ears feel blocked
- Hearing loss – if ear pressure pain is related to an ear wax build-up, hearing loss can occur in one or both ears
- Ringing in the ears – if ears are blocked, then you may experience ringing in the ears or tinnitus alongside ear pressure pain
- Bleeding in more serious cases – if an ear infection is causing ear pressure due to a build-up of fluid, then this can lead to a perforated eardrum and bleeding
Causes Of Ear Pressure
Pressure in ears happens when the eustachian tube, a thin tube that connects the middle ear to the back of the nose, is blocked or not working properly. The eustachian tube allows fluid to drain from behind the eardrum. This prevents infections and trauma, and regulates air flow, so when these tubes are narrowed or congested, a feeling of pressure is felt. Reasons for the eustachian tubes failing to work correctly include:
Sinus infections create swelling that inhibits fluid from draining out of the airways correctly. As the fluid has nowhere to go, it can build up behind the ear and cause ear pressure pain. As well as ear pressure, you’ll usually experience a blocked nose, post nasal drip, and possibly a cough. Sinus infections are one of the more temporary causes of ear pressure.
Middle ear infections like otitis media happen when there is a build up of fluid behind the eardrum. This type of ear infection is often one of the causes of ear pressure pain in children. Otitis media symptoms can also include discharge from the ear and a fever.
Probably one of the causes of ear pressure we’re all most familiar with is altitude. When the air pressure changes, it affects the pressure in our ears. This can happen even when simply driving through hills or mountains. Symptoms are usually fleeting and easy to alleviate.
Ear barotrauma is also known as aeroplane ear, as it’s the type of ear pressure experienced when flying. It can also happen when diving. This kind of ear pressure occurs when the pressure in the external atmosphere differs from the pressure in the eardrum, and is not balanced by the eustachian tubes. As the pressure in the surrounding atmosphere increases, the eustachian tubes do not always open enough to equalise the pressure in the ear. This is when you feel the sensation of fullness.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) Disorder
Ear pressure pain can be caused by an inflammation in the jaw joint and usually happens when people clench their jaw or grind their teeth. You might also have headaches, neck pain, and a stiff jaw if TMJ is the cause of ear pressure pain.
Ear Wax And Ear Pressure
If there is too much ear wax in the ear canal, it can build up and cause a feeling of pressure or result in your ears becoming blocked. Impacted ear wax can put pressure on your eardrum and even cause a perforation or hearing loss. The body naturally produces ear wax regardless of whether there’s a blockage, so not removing any wax build-up can significantly contribute to ear pressure pain.
How To Relieve Pressure In Ears
Dependant on the causes of ear pressure, there are several ways to relieve ear pressure pain, including:
- Yawning or swallowing – for simple bouts of ear pressure pain, simply yawning, chewing, or swallowing can open up the eustachian tubes and rebalance ear pressure. Pinching your nose and gently blowing down will provide similar ear pressure relief.
- Pain relief – taking over-the-counter medicines, such as paracetamol, can alleviate any initial pain, as can using a cold compress or heat wrap. For sinus-related ear pressure pain, try taking decongestant tablets or nasal sprays to clear sinuses and help fluid to drain out.
- Prescription medication – for ear infections that do not clear up on their own, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics to stop the infection and the associated ear pressure.
- Surgery – in more serious or persistent cases, surgery could be offered. For example, children with glue ear can have grommets inserted, which results in ear pressure relief as fluid is able to drain out of the ear more easily, stopping any blockages.
- Physical therapy – sufferers of TMJ may need physical therapy to help with jaw clenching or teeth grinding.
- Clearing blocked ears – keeping ears clean and free of wax build-up stops the likelihood of ear pressure pain caused by excess wax. There are several ways to remove ear wax, such as syringing, ear candling, or microsuction. Microsuction is the safest and most effective method.
Ear Pressure Relief With Microsuction
Microsuction is a quick and convenient solution for ear pressure pain, removing unwanted wax from inside the ear. Our ear care professionals use tiny microscopes to ensure all the excess ear wax is removed, making it the most reliable form of ear wax removal. For those who experience frequent episodes of ear pressure due to a wax build-up, regularly scheduled microsuction appointments can keep ears clear of debris so that ear pressure pain doesn’t return.