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How to relieve sinus pressure in ears

Last update on Jun, 30, 2023

Whether it’s due to a cold, allergies or infection, sinusitis and other sinus-related issues can cause significant ear pain and pressure. Luckily, certain methods and tricks will help relieve your discomfort.

What is a sinus infection (sinusitis)?

A sinus infection, also called sinusitis, is an inflammation of the sinus tissue. The causes of sinusitis vary—the infection could be viral, bacterial or fungus-related. The most common causes of sinusitis include the common cold, flu, and nasal and seasonal allergies. Viral sinusitis can stem from a cold, and buildup within your sinuses can lead to bacterial sinusitis. Fungal infections are most often seen in people with weakened immune systems and can be more severe and harder to fight.

What are the symptoms of a sinus infection?

So, what are some sinus infection symptoms? With a sinus infection, you may experience:

  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Headaches
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Pressure in or around your nose, eyes, forehead, teeth and ears
  • Postnasal drip (mucus dripping down the back of your throat)
  • Thick mucus that’s yellow or green 
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Can sinus infections cause ear problems or pain?

The nose, ears and sinuses are interconnected. Sinusitis often leads to an ear infection; both can result from a viral or bacterial infection. With a sinus infection, fluid gets caught behind the eardrum, creating the perfect environment for viruses and bacteria to fester. And that’s how you can end up with an ear infection, too.

Even if your ears don’t become infected, you may also experience other issues because of this blockage behind the eardrums. As mentioned, ear pressure is a common symptom. That pressure, caused by buildup, can lead to dizziness, ringing in the ears and even temporary hearing loss.

What are the causes of ear congestion?

Doctors connect a variety of circumstances, illnesses and conditions to ear congestion—including sinus pressure in ears or clogged ears. Here are a few of the most common causes.

With the interconnected nature of the body, sinus infections and issues can affect your ears. More specifically, the Eustachian tubes—the canals that connect the throat to the middle ear—get congested when you have a sinus infection. That buildup prevents the eustachian tubes’ usual, natural airflow, making it them unable to regulate the pressure in your ears. You may even experience sinus headaches.

Many sinus infection symptoms will go away with time. On very rare occasions, bacteria or fungi can spread elsewhere in your body, but most cases of sinusitis can go untreated by a doctor. To manage symptoms, you can use decongestants, over-the-counter cold and allergy medication and nasal saline rinses. Doctors also recommend drinking plenty of fluids during the healing period. If your symptoms don’t start to fade over time, check in with your doctor.

Ear infections, often caused by a cold, flu or allergies, have similar implications as sinusitis. They can also lead to buildup within the eustachian tubes. A middle ear infection can also cause dizziness, pain and fluid drainage.

Ear infection symptoms can fade over time without antibiotics, but the course of treatment depends on the severity of your symptoms. A standard ear infection can clear itself up within one to two weeks. However, young children may require and/or benefit from antibiotics or other ear infection treatments. 

Seasonal allergies and allergic reactions can affect the function of your sinuses and ears. Histamine, the chemical within the body that attacks allergens, often creates congestion, swelling and excess mucus. All these things can irritate your ears, making them uncomfortable, itchy or painful.

You can treat allergies and related symptoms, such as ear congestion and ear pain, with relevant medication. Antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays can help your nose, sinus and ear passageways, resolving allergy ear pain and congestion.

While earwax is a natural part of the human body, it can be harmful if excessive. Overproduction of earwax can happen naturally, too. Certain people tend to produce more earwax, especially if they have a lot of ear hair or use hearing aids, earplugs or earbuds. Earwax buildup symptoms are earache, hearing loss, ringing in your ears (tinnitus), itchiness or dizziness.

Earwax buildup can get worse when people use cotton swabs. Often, that cotton swab will push earwax further into your ear canal, potentially causing damage to your eardrum. For earwax buildup removal , try dissolving it with saline solution, hydrogen peroxide ear drops or mineral oil. Put a few drops in the problem ear, then lay down on your opposite side. Ear irrigation—using a syringe of water or saline solution to rinse your ear out—can also help.

Sometimes water can get caught in your ear after showering or swimming. Fluid in your ear is not only uncomfortable, but it can also lead to infection if left long-term.

To release the fluid in your ear, lean your head to the side and pull on your earlobe. If that doesn’t work, lie on your side with the problem ear on a towel and let gravity do the rest. For extra assistance, try putting a hot compress on your ear or using hydrogen peroxide drops before lying down.

When traveling in an airplane, you may feel what’s known as “airplane ear.This condition happens when your ears experience a significant change in pressure. When an airplane changes altitude upon take-off and landing, your ears change pressure. The air pressure in your ears must adjust to the pressure within your environment, leading to a “popping” feeling in your ears. This can result in muffled hearing, stuffiness in your ears, or pain and discomfort.

If you experience airplane ear, yawn or swallow during take-off and landing. Doing so will engage your muscles that open the Eustachian tubes. Sucking on hard candy or chewing gum can also stimulate these same muscles.

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Other uncommon ear pressure causes

If you’re wondering what causes pressure in the ears, there are a range of less common conditions in addition to the well-known ones. Rare ear pressure causes include:

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How to relieve sinus pressure in ears

How you can relieve sinus pressure in your ears will depend on the cause of it, but these methods will help:

  • Over-the-counter decongestants, nasal sprays or antihistamines
  • Pain medication, including acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Saline rinses

Home remedies for sinus pressure in ears

If you’re suffering from ear pain from a sinus infection, try some of these home remedies for ear pressure relief:

  • Take a nasal decongestant.
  • Gently blow your nose.
  • Use a nasal rinse or nasal irrigation system.
  • Try a humidifier to get rid of dry air that may irritate your nasal passageways.
  • Place a warm compress washcloth on your ears or face.
  • Avoid irritants, such as tobacco and vape smoke.
  • Drink plenty of water.
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Check your hearing with Miracle-Ear

One of the best ways to care for your ears and prevent hearing loss is to get them properly examined by a hearing professional. Find your nearest Miracle-Ear store to get started on your journey to better hearing.

FAQs about sinusitis and hearing diseases

Have some questions regarding how sinusitis can affect your ears? Find your answers below.

Yes. As mentioned previously, the ears and sinuses connect within the body. Sinusitis can prevent proper air circulation within the ears, resulting in pressure sinus infection ear pain and clogged ears.

While sinus infections often go away on their own, over-the-counter medications will help minimize pesky symptoms like ear pain. Try ibuprofen, decongestants, antihistamines or acetaminophen as needed.

Yes, there is such a thing as sinus infection tinnitus. Tinnitus—ringing in the ears even when there’s no sound present—is often temporary when you have a sinus infection. If you’re wondering how long tinnitus last after a sinus infection, it should resolve within a couple of days of the end of your infection. Blocked sinuses prevent airflow to the ears and interfere with sound processing, resulting in tinnitus. Only severe cases can result in permanent tinnitus after the sinus infection and its symptoms have resolved.

Sinus infection hearing loss is real, but it is most often temporary. Congestion and pressure from sinus infections can prevent clear sound processing. You’ll find relief once your sinusitis clears up, and permanent hearing loss after sinus infections generally only happens in the most severe cases. 

When to see a doctor about ear pain

While most earaches resolve within a matter of days, long-term ear issues may require a medical consultation. If you’re looking for ways to relieve sinus pressure in your ears, over-the-counter medications can help mitigate the pain. But those who experience persistent fever—along with sinus pressure in ears, earache, fluid drainage, hearing loss or balance problems—should seek medical treatment, especially if they’re a child. You should also consult a doctor for other concerning symptoms, including serious headaches or significant pain in facial muscles.

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