Ear pressure, also known as ear barotrauma, is a common problem manifested due to increase in air pressure inside the ear. Ear pressure plays a major role for normal perception of sound. To be more precise, air pressure inside the ear is nearly equal to the pressure on the outside of the ear.
Any fluctuation in the air pressure level can lead to various symptoms. An elevated pressure is associated with discomfort, temporary hearing problem, and at times, painful conditions.
Causes of Ear Pressure
As we all are aware, different parts of the human ear are collectively responsible for proper functioning of the ear. One such example is the Eustachian tube that connects the middle ear, nose, and throat.
The primary role of this tube is regulation of the pressure by controlling air flow to the inside and/or outside of the ear. This way, pressure on either side of the eardrum is maintained at an equilibrium level, which is essential for normal hearing.
In case of a blocked Eustachian tube, normal air exchange of the ear is disturbed, resulting in pressure buildup in the middle ear portion. In majority of the cases, dysfunction of the Eustachian tube is the leading cause for elevated ear pressure. This blockage of Eustachian tube may be present at birth (congenital) or developed afterward.
Changes in Altitude
Sudden change in the altitude is one of the main causes of ear pressure. Considering this, discomfort due to ear pressure is commonly manifested during an airplane journey, driving in mountainous areas, scuba diving, and other altitude related activities.
Ear infections, especially in the middle portion, is a triggering factor for ear pressure buildup. Also, accumulation of earwax causes pressure elevation in the ear. Hence, those who experience excess secretion of earwax are prone to increased pressure.
Health conditions like common cold and flu cause excess drainage of mucus that triggers pressure buildup. Another cause of increased pressure is an untreated sinusitis condition. Overall, allergies pertaining to the respiratory tract cause ear pressure problems.
Inflammation in the Nasopharynx
In rare cases, nasopharyngeal problem is the contributing factor for ear pressure problem. Abnormal swelling or presence of tumor in the nasopharynx area can cause partial blockage of the Eustachian tube, which in turn leads to pressure buildup in the ear.
Treatment for Ear Pressure
At times, ear pressure can be combated with certain self-care tips and remedies. As mentioned earlier, it is mostly caused due to blockage of the Eustachian tube. If such is the case, one can get ear pressure relief by restoring the function of Eustachian tube.
Medical intervention for alleviating the symptoms is required if the condition does not improve with personal care tips. Based on the underlying ear pressure causes, the physician may prescribe medications such as decongestants, antibiotics, antihistamines, and steroids (if necessary) to relieve the pressure.
If medication therapy is non-responsive, surgery may be recommended for treatment of ear pressure. On the brighter side, timely diagnosis of elevated ear pressure and correct medical approach will help in preventing eardrum rupture, nosebleed, and other complications.