What are the Common Causes of Sinus and Ear Pain?

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  • Written By: Marlene de Wilde
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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The most common causes of sinus and ear pain are colds, allergies and inflammation. Sinusitis, an extremely common chronic illness, causes ear pain, as do myriad other conditions, such as an ear infection, dental infection, throat infection, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome and arthritis of the jaw. There are more than 200 causes of sinus pain, including sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, upper respiratory tract infection, Eustachian tube dysfunction and nasal bone fracture.

Sinus and ear pain are often linked because of the proximity of one to the other. The sinuses, which are air cavities in the cranial bones, and the ear are joined by the Eustachian tube. The ear is divided into three sections — the inner, middle and external — and the Eustachian tube joins the middle ear, the inner ear and the back of the nose and throat. In children, this tube can be easily blocked by a buildup of secretions because of a cold or allergy, which can then cause ear infection and ear pain.


The ear, nose, throat and sinuses are all linked via the Eustchian tube. An infection or inflammation in one area can quickly spread or affect another. For the same reason, pain in one area might be because of an infection in another, so some conditions are difficult to diagnose. Sinusitis, for example, is one of the most common chronic illnesses, affecting millions of people, yet there are many who do not seek treatment because they are unaware that the problem lies in the sinuses and not in the ear or throat. Sinus and ear pain is often the result of another condition altogether, and the pain is what is called "referred pain."

More specifically, ear pain in children is often because of a blockage in the Eustachian tube, whereas in adults, earache is more commonly because of referred pain. The temporomandibular joint connects the jaw to the side of the head and is found just in front of the ear. Made up of muscles, tendons and bone, the TMJ is one of the most used joints in the body. As such, it is vulnerable to problems, and one of the first symptoms is ear pain. Swimmer's ear; a foreign body in the ear; ear wax; trauma; and referred pain from dental disorders, throat infections, mouth tumors and tongue disorders are some of the hundreds of other causes of ear pain.

Sinus pain causes also number in the hundreds. Sinusitis is caused by conditions such as bacterial or viral infection, nasal allergies, congenital disease, immunodeficiency, surgery, trauma and inflammatory diseases. Conditions causing sinus and ear pain react well to treatment, but the difficulty is finding the exact cause.


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Post 3

@Scrbblchick -- Ouch. That sounds painful. Every time I get a sinus infection, my ears start hurting. It's inevitable. I guess it's because my Eustachian tubes always get clogged whenever I have sinus problems. I'm usually OK if it's just a cold, but if my ears ever start hurting, I know it's sinus. It can be really painful.

I don't get ear infections, but my ears just start aching when my sinuses act up. That's how I know the difference between a cold and a sinus infection.

Post 2

One winter when I was in college, I had a terrible cold and sinus infection. I'd been on antibiotics about a week for the infection. My ears had been hurting and the left one was so stopped up, I could hardly hear on that side.

I was in class one morning, and I'd been feeling better, but just waiting for that ear to unstop. I yawned, and suddenly, *pop*! My ear came unstopped. It*hurt*! Felt like someone had shoved an ice pick in my ear. But then it felt so much better. I could sort of feel the pressure releasing as I yawned, and then it was like popping a cork out of a bottle. I even yelped because the pain was so sharp, and had to explain to the professor what was going on.

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