What Causes Ear and Sinus Pressure?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2019
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Causes of ear and sinus pressure include a blocked Eustachian tube, changes in barometric pressure, and infection. In addition, flying in airplanes and swimming can also cause pain and pressure. Frequently, when someone develops an ear or sinus infection, fluid builds up in the ear, causing not only feelings of pressure, but dizziness, vertigo, and pain. Although ear infections in adults are not common, sinus infections are.

Typically, antibiotics are required when ear and sinus pressure are caused by an infection. The use of antibiotics is only appropriate when the infection is bacterial in nature, since these drugs are not effective against viruses. Most of the time, however, whether viral or bacterial, sinus infection resolves on its own, without treatment.

Sometimes, simple remedies such as chewing gum, yawning or forcefully blowing the nose can improve clogged ears and restore muffled hearing. Other times, sinus pain can be so severe that it causes excruciating pain when bending down or leaning over. Taking a decongestant may help relieve the pressure and eliminate clogged ears and sinus pain.


Although many people do not consider medications such as ibuprofen appropriate treatment for ear and sinus pressure, this medication can relieve pressure-related pain very successfully. Ibuprofen does not alleviate the actual pressure, so other treatments, such as facial massage and nasal sprays, are often recommended. When using nose sprays, the results are usually immediate and dramatic. The fast results entice people to overuse them, however, which can be dangerous and actually cause an increase in symptoms.

Ear pressure can often result from trapped water. As water gets trapped in the ear from swimming or showering, bacteria can breed, causing infection and inflammation. In those who are susceptible to ear infections, ear plugs should be worn when swimming or taking showers.

In addition, when sinus infection or congestion causes an earache, analgesic ear drops can substantially relieve pain and inflammation. After instilling ear drops, it is important for the individual to lie on his side for a few minutes to make sure the medication reaches the inner ear and does not run out. If an earache becomes severe, the individual needs to see a medical professional because an ear drum may have ruptured.


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