Feeling pressure in the ears is uncomfortable, sometimes even painful. Pain caused by benign causes is often short-lived. In some cases, however, it may indicate an underlying medical condition. When treating ear pressure, knowing what's causing it is crucial.
This article discusses the possible causes and symptoms of ear pressure. I will explain the symptoms in this article and how healthcare providers may identify the potential condition. After that, I'll discuss treatment options and how to prevent ear pressure. Finally, I'll discuss when to see a doctor.
The feeling of fullness and heaviness in the ear is called ear pressure. A blocked or malfunctioning eustachian tube causes this condition. In the ear, the Eustachian tube joins the middle ear with the upper throat and the side of the nose. It regulates inner ear pressure and drains fluid from the middle ear to prevent infections.
Several factors can cause ear pressure.
Air-filled cavities in the head and the sinuses produce mucus, which keeps the nasal passages clean. Congestion occurs when mucus accumulates in the sinuses. Allergies, viral infections, and bacterial infections can cause sinus congestion. There can be ear pressure, headaches, a decreased sense of smell, yellow or green mucus, and pain and tenderness in the cheeks, eyes, or forehead.
A sudden change in altitude can close the Eustachian tubes.
Because of this, the tube cannot quickly equalise middle ear pressure with the immediate environment. Scuba diving and flying on a plane commonly cause it. Some symptoms are ear pressure, ear pain, dizziness, fluid buildup in the ear, and, rarely, temporary hearing loss.
An ear infection can cause a feeling of fullness in the ear. A middle ear infection, also called otitis media, is caused by fluid behind the eardrum putting pressure on it. Hearing loss, fever, ear pain, and discharge may accompany ear pressure. When trapped water results in a break in the skin of the ear canal, a swimmer's ear, also known as otitis externa, occurs.
A chronic skin condition, such as eczema or psoriasis, can also irritate the skin of the ear canal. Otomycosis, or yeast infection of the ear, is an outer ear infection caused by fungi. Symptoms include ear fullness, inflammation, itching, and discharge from the ear.
Tropical climates are conducive to otomycosis.
Oil glands innately produce ear wax in the ear canal. The wax usually falls out or is washed away at the ear's opening, but some people produce excess wax and block their ears. Itching, ear pressure, and muffled hearing can result from this condition.
It is well known that nasal allergies, or allergic rhinitis, are a major cause of chronic eustachian tube blockages in many areas in the United States. Inflammation of the eustachian tube membrane lining can occur in people sensitive to allergens such as pollen. In addition to fluid buildup, itching, and ear pain, this can lead to abnormal ear pressure.
A barotrauma to the ear is caused by air or water pressure causing changes within the ear.
The majority of people experience barotrauma at some point in their lives. A change in altitude, nasal congestion, swelling of the throat, or blockage of the eustachian tube can cause it. The effects of barotrauma include ear pressure, pain, dizziness, and hearing loss.
Hearing loss caused by barotrauma, however, is usually temporary.
A foreign object trapped in the ear canal can create pressure in the ear depending on how deep it gets. Generally, curious children tend to put things in their mouths, noses, and ears. The items that can get stuck in the ear are beads, crayons, small batteries, and toys. Aside from ear pressure, other symptoms include ear discharge, ear pain, and hearing loss.
Hearing and balance are both affected by Meniere's disease. Typically, it affects only one ear but can later develop in both. Meniere's disease has no known cause. Symptoms include ear pressure, severe dizziness, ringing, and hearing loss.
Middle ear cysts are called cholesteatomas. A chronic ear infection or a birth defect may cause it. Untreated skin cysts may become infected or grow. Complications may include meningitis, facial paralysis, and brain abscesses in rare cases. Some symptoms include ear pressure, dizziness, discharge, and hearing loss.
Hearing and balance are affected by an acoustic neuroma, a non-cancerous tumor. It is a slow-growing tumor but can press against the brain, causing a life-threatening condition if it grows large. It can cause ear pressure, loss of balance, buzzing in the ears, dizziness, and loss of hearing on one side.
The joints that join the lower jaw to the skull are affected by temporomandibular joint disorders.
There is no definitive cause for this condition. Symptoms include ear discomfort, headaches, and jaw pain.
Along with the feeling of fullness in the ear, ear pressure can cause the following symptoms:
In addition to these symptoms, additional symptoms may be present depending on the cause.
A doctor will also consider the other symptoms that may be present, along with the feeling of fullness and stuffiness. A doctor may use an otoscope to examine the ear for scratches, tears, holes, and signs of infection.
Depending on the cause of ear pressure, treatment will vary. In the case of sudden altitude changes, the feeling of pressure usually subsides by swallowing or yawning to pop the ear. Sinus infections can be treated with over-the-counter decongestants. Pain associated with the condition may be treated with medicine prescribed by the doctor.
They may recommend using ear drops, a syringe, and warm water to remove blockages. In the case of bacterial infections, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics and antihistamines. When the condition causing the pressure in the ear is treated, the pressure in the ear usually goes away.
Even though there is no proven way to prevent ear pressure, there are some ways to reduce the risk.
A persistent feeling of fullness in your ear should be addressed by a healthcare provider, especially if it is caused by other symptoms such as:
Attempting to remove a foreign object in your ear that hasn't dislodged on its own may push it further into your ear. It can be safely removed at a doctor's office.
How does ear pressure occur?
Eustachian tube dysfunction causes ear pressure. Rapid altitude changes, ear infections, foreign objects stuck in the ear, ear wax buildup, allergies, Meniere's disease, and acoustic neuroma are all possible causes.
How severe is ear pressure?
There are some severe causes of ear pressure, such as acoustic neuromas. It can be treated with simple actions such as yawning and swallowing. If it persists, you may need to see a doctor.
What can I do to relieve ear pressure?
Understanding the cause of ear pressure is vital to get rid of it. If a sudden change in altitude causes it, yawning or swallowing may help. You will have to see your doctor for specific treatment if it is related to underlying problems such as ear infections, Meniere's disease, or acoustic neuroma.
Do you have a persistent feeling of fullness in your ear? Please feel free to consult your healthcare provider if you have any concerns. With Mobi Doctor, you can get affordable primary care.
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