Different Types of Ear Pressure and Pain

woman experiencing ear pressure and pain

Ear pressure and pain are often confused with each other, but they are two different things. While they can occur simultaneously, pressure in the ears refers to a feeling of fullness. In contrast, ear pain is a more intense sensation that can be debilitating depending on its severity.

Ear pain and pressure are quite common and can happen to people of all ages. Though problems with ear pain and pressure are primarily considered childhood problems, many adults experience them as well. If you’re wondering “how to unclog my ear” or how you can find ear pressure relief, continue reading this helpful guide.


Pressure in the Ears

When the pressure in your middle ear is different from the pressure outside of your ear, you can experience a feeling of fulness or discomfort in one or both ears. This feeling may also be described as a sensation of “stuffiness.”

You may feel pressure in your ears if you have a sinus infection, a buildup of earwax or are going through changes in altitude. There are other potential causes of pressure in the ears, but these are some of the most common.

Your ears typically maintain optimal pressure through normal processes like yawning or swallowing. The eustachian tubes open up when you do these things to relieve excess pressure in your middle ear. Unfortunately, the eustachian tubes can become blocked or inflamed due to a condition or illness. When this happens, the stress in your ears doesn’t go away naturally, even when you yawn and swallow.

Here is a list of some of the potential causes of excess pressure in the ears. Items closer to the top of the list are more common, while items listed near the bottom of the list or uncommon:

  • Sinusitis
  • Ear infections
  • Changes in altitude
  • Allergies
  • Earwax buildup
  • Colds
  • Foreign object in the ear
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Fungal ear infection
  • Cholesteatoma
  • Temporomandibular joint disorders
  • Chronic otitis media

If you experience an increase of pressure in your ears due to any of the above conditions, there may be things you can do to relieve the pressure.


How To Unclog My Ear

If your ears are clogged and yawning or swallowing doesn’t unclog them, you may want to try the following methods for relieving pressure:

  • Remove excess earwax using hydrogen peroxide or mineral oil. You can also visit a doctor to have your earwax manually removed.
  • Use over-the-counter decongestant nasal spray if your ears are clogged due to a cold or congestion.
  • Relieve sinus congestion with OTC pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These may help minimize pain or swelling associated with clogged ears.
  • Take OTC antihistamines if you have seasonal allergies that cause your ears to become clogged.
  • Get an antibiotic prescription if you have an ear infection caused by bacteria.
  • Remove any foreign object that may be causing your ears to clog up. If possible, tilt your head and use gravity to remove the object, or use a syringe and lukewarm water to rinse the ear canal. If these things don’t work, see a professional to have any foreign objects removed from your ear canal.

In severe cases, excess pressure in the ears caused by a prolonged buildup of fluid may be reduced with a surgical procedure. The placing of ear tubes or a myringotomy can relieve pressure and unclog your ears. In the previous surgery, tubes are placed into the eardrum to relieve pressure and prevent fluid from building up in the ear. A myringotomy involves making a small incision in the eardrum to allow accumulated fluid to be removed.


Ear Pressure Relief

If you are experiencing excess pressure and pain in your ears that isn’t directly related to fluid buildup or infection in your ears, you may have a TMJ disorder or a tooth abscess. These seemingly unrelated conditions can cause pain and inflammation in and around the ears. TMJ is a disorder that impacts the temporomandibular joint and the surrounding tissues. It can lead to ear pain and swelling.

A tooth abscess often starts painless but can become extremely painful as it progresses. Swelling inside the gums can eventually lead to swelling and inflammation in the ears. People with ear pain and pressure from a tooth abscess often describe the pain as dull or throbbing. Treating the underlying cause of the pain in these instances is essential for experiencing relief from excess pressure in the ears.


When To See an Ear, Nose, and Throat Physician or an Audiologist

If you ever experience the following ear symptoms, it’s important to see an Ear, Nose, and Throat physician:

  • Your ear discomfort comes with other symptoms such as dizziness, fever, bleeding from the ear, or severe pain.
  • Your ear pain and pressure get worse despite treatments you try at home.
  • You think a foreign object is causing your pain and pressure, and you have been unable to remove that object using at-home techniques.

If you experience any of the above, visit our website to find an Ear, Nose, and Throat physician we trust at Happy Ears.