Ear Pressure: Causes and Treatments

The Eustachian tube is an opening originating from the back of the nose and throat to the middle ear. Its primary function is to ventilate the middle ear space, to equalize environmental air pressure with middle ear pressure. This tube is normally closed and opens when a person swallows, yawns, or chews. When conditions cause a change so that the pressure outside becomes greater than the pressure in the middle ear, an uncomfortable and sometimes painful popping or clicking sensation and fullness or pressure in the ear results.

Ear pressure is known medically as barotitis media, barotrauma, pressure-related ear pain, or Eustachian tube dysfunction.

Causes of Pressure in Ear

Failure to effectively regulate air pressure results from a blocked, swollen, or collapsed Eustachian tube. Air and fluid become trapped causing a buildup of pressure in the middle ear.

There are several conditions that contribute to this pressure.

Symptoms and Complications of Pressure in Ear

Symptoms of ear pressure include:

Severe or prolonged cases can cause:

If ear pressure is left untreated, or improperly treated, complications occur, which include acute ear infection, loss of hearing, rupture or perforation of the ear eardrum, and vertigo.

Treatments for Pressure in Ear

Home Remedies

The buildup of air pressure in the middle ear can be relieved with simple measures:  

One of the more common causes of ear pressure is infection of the sinuses. Infected sinuses become inflamed and swollen and filled with mucus causing pressure to build up.  It is important to treat the underlying cause of the sinus condition but simple home remedies can be done to relieve the ear pressure:

Medical Management

The above-mentioned home remedies are simple and easy methods and usually work in a few minutes. These can be tried first in order to relieve pressure in ear. However, if ear pressure persists or the condition worsens, a search for the underlying cause is warranted so that the appropriate management may be given. Conditions to watch out for include drainage or bleeding from the ear, fever, or severe ear pain. The treatment may consist of an antibiotic, antihistamine, decongestant or steroid or a combination of these medicine, or use of surgery.

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