What is Ear Pressure?
Simply put, ear pressure is the sensation of fullness or pain in the head located near the ears. It has several potential causes and remedies, and can sometimes be solved without the aid of a medical professional.
What Causes Ear Pressure?
You experience ear pressure when the pressure in the middle ear is different from the pressure of your environment. There are two tubes that normally regulate the pressure differential called eustachian tubes that naturally open when you do things like yawn or swallow. This ensures the pressure remains the same between the inner ear and the environment.
However, these tubes can become blocked due to certain conditions leading to ear pressure, and severe pressure changes such as those experienced in an airplane can also cause that feeling. Additional yet rare causes include middle or inner ear diseases as well as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
Ear pressure may be the only symptom you experience or it could be one of many symptoms, such as sinus pressure, runny nose, or hearing loss. Depending on the type and severity of your symptoms, you may need to see a doctor to have the issue resolved.
How to Relieve Ear Pressure
What you should do to relieve ear pressure differs depending on its cause. For example, pressure caused by descending quickly in an airplane largely resolves itself on its own, with a person sometimes able to trigger the eustachian tube opening by opening their mouth widely. When you feel your ears pop, the pressure should be relieved.
Other causes of ear pressure and pain need to be dealt with differently, often with medication to fight a sinus or ear infection that’s caused the eustachian tubes to shut. Your doctor may prescribe ear drops or oral medication to help fight infections, with relief coming in the coming days following the prescription.
If the pressure is caused because there’s a foreign object in the ear, the solution is obviously to get it out. Some techniques you can try to get objects out of the ear include:
- Using tweezers to gently pull it out
- Tilting the affected ear toward the ground to let gravity help dislodge it
- Using a small syringe and warm water to flush the object out of the ear canal
When to See a Doctor About Ear Pressure
You should see your doctor about ear pressure symptoms if it’s disrupting your everyday life or hasn’t gone away on its own with home remedies. Ear pressure can be a symptom of something more serious, like Meniere’s disease or cholesteatoma, but these usually have additional accompanying symptoms like hearing loss and dizziness. Ear pressure on its own is rarely a serious condition and is frequently solved by popping the ears. When it doesn’t go away, a doctor can help diagnose the cause and offer treatments to get you the relief you need.
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