Head & Neck

Relieving Ear Pressure from Each of The Common Causes

written by Collin County ENT

Do you feel a constant sensation of pressure in your ears? If this pressure doesn’t go away, then it’s time to identify the underlying cause of your problem. An experienced ENT can help you find the reason why you experience chronic ear pressure, then an effective treatment can be identified to reduce your discomfort.

Here are a few things you need to know about ear pressure.

Is Your Ear Blocked?

Ear pressure happens when there is a disruption to the function of the eustachian tube in the ear. The tube is the pathway that connects the back area of the nose with the middle ear.

When the tube is functional, then it manages the right balance of air pressure around the eardrum. At the same time, the tube is important for clearing out fluid and secretions from the middle ear.

When you are feeling a sensation of stuffiness or fullness in the ear, then it could be that something is going on with the eustachian tube. This tube usually opens when you yawn, swallow, or chew – helping to reduce the risk of a buildup of air pressure within the ear.

But sometimes the function of this tube is disrupted. These are a few common symptoms that something is going wrong with your eustachian tube:

  • Hearing problems
  • Feeling like your ear is plugged
  • Discomfort
  • Pain

Even though ear pressure is most often tied to issues with the eustachian tube, you need to identify the underlying reasons why there are issues with the air pressure and flow within this tube. An experienced ENT can help you find the cause of your ear pressure, as well as specific treatments to reduce your symptoms.

Common Causes of Ear Pressure

Learning about the common causes of ear pressure is an important step so you can treat the root problem. Here are a few of the most common causes of pressure buildup in the ears, as well as treatments that your ENT might recommend:

Ear Infections

Ear pressure can build if there is an infection within the ear. These infections can happen because of swimmer’s ear, usually due to water trapped in the ear that causes an overgrowth of fungi or bacteria. While swimmer’s ear usually affects the ear canal, an infection can also develop within the middle ear. The buildup of pressure behind the eardrum can happen in people of all ages, but it is particularly common in young children.

If you have an ear infection, then these treatments might be recommended, based on the cause of your infection:

  • Antibiotics
  • Medicated ear drops
  • Over the counter pain relievers
  • Antifungal medication
  • Cleaning the ear (treatment in a medical office)

Sinus Congestion

When you have congestion in the sinus cavities, the fluid can affect your ears as well. Sinus congestion is often caused by allergies, sinus infections, or viral infections (such as the flu or the common cold). Treatment might include:

  • Decongestant or antihistamine medication
  • Gently inhaling steam
  • Saline nasal washes
  • Antibiotics to eliminate the infection
  • Nasal corticosteroids

The most important way to eliminate sinus congestion is by understanding why you are congested. For example, if the ear pressure is caused by congestion, and the congestion is happening because of a sinus infection – then treating the sinus infection with antibiotics might be the best way to clear up congestion, which in turn eliminates the ear pressure.

Buildup of Earwax

Earwax is important for keeping the ear canal lubricated and clean. Even though this wax acts as a protectant, it can cause discomfort if the wax builds up and puts pressure on the eardrum.

Common treatments for earwax buildup include:

  • Put a few drops of mineral oil or baby oil in the ear
  • Use ear drops – either over the counter or prescription from your ENT
  • Have your doctor clean the ear using a syringe
  • Manual removal of the wax (should only be performed by a doctor)

Use caution: It is not recommended that you put a Q-tip or cotton swab into the ear to remove the wax. Often, this practice pushes the wax deeper, making it harder to remove the blockages.

Altitude Changes

It is common to feel like your ears need to pop when you are changing elevation quickly. For example, when a plane is taking off, the pressure is rapidly changing and can affect your ears. The pressure within the middle ear is not equalized with the pressure outside of the body, resulting in pain and discomfort.

Changes in altitude happen based on your environmental circumstances. Common examples include driving up a canyon, flying in an airplane or helicopter, scuba diving, or riding an elevator.

Treatment recommendations for altitude-related ear pressure include:

  • Swallowing
  • Yawning
  • Checking gum
  • Decongestants
  • Sucking on hard candy
  • Pinch the nose, then gently blow against the pressure, then swallow

If your child is experiencing altitude ear pressure, then try giving the baby a pacifier or bottle.

Foreign Object

When an unusual object is inserted in the ear, it can get trapped and cause a blockage. This happens most often in younger children. Small items can get stuck such as toys, food, buttons, crayons, insects, and other things around the house.

It is best to meet with a doctor right away for the removal of the object. The doctor might use one of the following methods to dislodge a foreign item from the ear:

  • Suction
  • Water flush
  • Surgical instruments

Other Health Diagnosis

There are times when a buildup of ear pressure is a symptom of a deeper health concern. For example, Meniere’s disease, cyst growth (cholesteatoma), or acoustic neuroma (a tumor) could play a role in the pressure you are experiencing.

After diagnosis, your ENT will recommend a specific treatment based on your condition. For example, lifestyle changes can sometimes help with Meniere’s disease. But a surgical removal might be required if you have a cyst or tumor growing within the ear.

Should You Talk to an ENT about Ear Pressure?

Depending on the cause of your ear pressure, it’s possible that a little bit of time will help the issue clear up on its own. But don’t hesitate to talk to a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • No improvement in symptoms
  • Symptoms are worsening
  • Persistent pain
  • Facial weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Hearing loss
  • Blood coming from the ear
  • Can’t remove a foreign object

An ENT can be a great resource to understand more about the underlying reasons why you are experiencing ear pressure. If you would like to learn more, then our team is here to assist.

We serve patients who live in all of the surrounding areas including Denton and Dallas. If you are nearby, then contact us at Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat to schedule an appointment at one of our offices located in Frisco or Plano, TX. We have an online form you can use to request an appointment, or call us at (972) 596-4005.

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“This was my first time visiting this office. These folks were super friendly!! Starting with the front desk to all the help in the back, the Dr. Littlejohn was very patient and listened to all my concerns. I dealt with 5 people total due to testing and they all were genuinely nice! Loved it, and not to mention quick service. Great customer service, I’ll be sure to refer family and friends! ”

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“I have used Collin Co. ENT and Dr. Kenny Carter for over 3 years, primarily for ear problems. The staff has been consistently helpful and friendly to me. When I have had problems needing immediate attention and explained the need, have been able to get an appointment within a reasonable time to address the problem. I recommend Dr. Carter and his staff.”

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