Sinus pressure builds up due to blockage of the sinus cavities by mucus. This condition arises when the sinus tissues are inflamed because of irritation caused by an infection or allergen. This affects proper drainage of the mucus and it gets accumulated inside the nasal passage. On the other hand, the root cause of sinus ear pressure lies with malfunctioning of the Eustachian tube. It is a thin tube present in the middle part of the ear and is extended up to the back of the nose. The main function of this tube is to drain out fluid from the middle ear region through its opening at the back of the nasal passage and thus, it maintains normal pressure inside the ear. Inflammation in sinus tissues often causes blockage in the Eustachian tubes and it fails to drain out the fluid properly. This trapped fluid then starts exerting pressure within the ear.
The symptoms of sinus ear pressure can affect one or both the ears. These symptoms are often accompanied by other regular symptoms of sinus infection. The most common symptoms that are observed in this condition are as follows -
- Earache: This is one of the most obvious signs of sinus ear pressure. A constant pain is felt in the ears. However, its intensity may vary from time to time. Sometimes, it is felt as a dull pain and at other times it could be a sharp, stabbing pain.
- Heavy feeling inside the ears: As the ear canal is filled up with fluid, you feel a sense of fullness and discomfort.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing sound heard within the ear. Some people get this symptom once in a while but there are some who complain that they hear this ringing sound all the time.
- Muffled hearing: In this condition, the patients cannot hear the sounds around his or her surroundings properly. If the sinus infection is left untreated for some time, then it can even impair the hearing ability of the patient temporarily.
- Popping sound in the ears: Majority of the people consider it as a very bothersome symptom of sinus ear pressure. This sound is not always there but occurs all of a sudden. It mostly happens when you yawn or chew your food or suck a candy. Sometimes, it may even occur without any reason.
- Other symptoms: There are some general symptoms that accompany the symptoms. They are mild to moderate fever, headache, dizziness, inability to fall asleep, irritability, fatigue, etc.
Doctors conduct thorough examination of the ear canal with the help of instruments like otoscope for proper diagnosis of sinus ear pressure. The symptoms and the medical history of the patient is also taken into account. The first priority of the treatment is to restore proper sinus drainage, which in turn will ease off the pressure from the ear. Nasal decongestants are highly effective medicines used for this purpose. When it is applied directly into the nasal passage, it constricts the blood vessels in the area and thus, decreases the swelling in the tissues of the nasal passage. As the swelling in the lining of nasal passage goes down, the Eustachian tubes open up and start functioning normally. Thus the pressure in the ears is reduced. Till that time, the constant pain in the ears is controlled with painkillers.
There are high chances of bacterial growth in the sinuses as well as in the ear due to the fluid buildup and it has to be treated using oral antibiotics. Some patients may require antibiotic ear drops for the treatment of ear infection. If there are signs of allergies, then oral antihistamines are prescribed to obtain relief from the nasal discharge. In some chronic cases, where the sinus related ear pressure does not return to normal even after 2-3 months, doctors opt for surgical methods. In this procedure, small tubes made of plastic or metal are inserted into the ear through the eardrum in order to reduce the ear pressure. The tubes are kept inside the ear for several months until the normal pressure in the ear is restored.
There are some over the counter nasal sprays available that can alleviate symptoms. However, you should avoid using them as it may be difficult for you to decide which one is right for your condition. It is advisable that it is treated under the supervision of an ENT specialist. This is because there are chances of an ear infection, which could be a serious issue and may require suitable antibiotic therapy as per the severity of the infection.