You’ve probably had your ears pop on a flight or experienced a blocked ear from a cold. Ear pressure can be uncomfortable and downright painful sometimes. So how do you fix the problem quickly and painlessly?
You don’t always need antibiotics or ear irrigation to fix an earache. Sometimes, all it takes is a few easy-to-remember tips and tricks – and they’re all together in this handy list that follows!
Why Do You Feel Ear Pressure?
The discomfort or pain from ear pressure is because of a pressure difference between the outside of your eardrum and the inside. This could be the result of ear damage or due to changes in altitude when you’re driving high up in the mountains, scuba diving, or, more commonly, flying. Some people also develop ear pressure problems when they have an upper respiratory infection, a cold, or an allergy and their Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the upper throat, are blocked.1
Depending on what’s causing your ear pain and pressure, one or more of the following simple home remedies could help. Remember, if you have an infection like a sinus infection or a bad cold or flu, you should seek medical help and not ignore the problem. If you feel your condition is getting worse or the ear pressure and pain are severe, have it checked immediately. Ignoring an ear problem could lead to an acute ear infection, a ruptured or perforated eardrum, vertigo, and even hearing loss.2
To relieve ear pressure:
Your middle ear should have air pressure that’s at the same level as the air outside your ear. When that isn’t the case and you experience pressure in the air, the simple act of swallowing can help. This opens up your Eustachian tube so that air can flow in/out of your middle ear, thereby equalizing the pressure on both sides of the eardrum.3
Working in much the same way as swallowing does, yawning helps open up your Eustachian tube if it is blocked. Once the pressure on either side of your eardrum equalizes, the pain and discomfort should ease as well.4
Try The Neti Pot
The neti pot is a nasal irrigation device used widely in Ayurvedic treatments. Distilled or sterile water with a spoon of salt is used for the treatment. You need to take in the saline water from one nostril and bring it out of the other, thereby cleansing and clearing the nasal passage. You could learn how to do this correctly with the help of a trained therapist.
If your ear pressure is caused by sinusitis or a cold or congestion of some kind, this therapy can go a long way in accelerating healing. This will also help with acute sinusitis that is not complicated or very severe.5
Chew On Candy Or Gum
The old chewing gum trick is a time-tested trick – and with good reason. When you suck on candy or chew gum, it makes you swallow due to the rise in saliva production as you pop these in your mouth. This helps create the same effect as just swallowing without candy or gum – it’s just easier (and tastier!).6
Apply A Warm Compress
If the ear pressure is accompanied by pain, a warm compress can really help. This open up the Eustachian tubes and eases the pain. Just be sure not to make the pad too hot.7 You could simply hold a clean warm flannel against the ear.8
Steam treatment can also act like a warm compress for your ear, especially if the pain or pressure is from a blocked ear from a cold, sinusitis, or because water has gone into your ear. Simply cover your head with a towel and use a steamer for 5 minutes until the muffled sound in your ear clears up. Alternatively, just sit in a bathroom with the shower running on a warm to hot setting. You should feel your ears “open up,” like you can hear more clearly. The warmth can also help ease congestion in the nasal passages and be comforting if you have a bad cold.9
Hold Your Nostrils Closed
Another ear pressure-relieving trick that’s been passed down through generations is the closed nostril move. Breathe in and then hold your nostrils and mouth shut as you try and exhale. This should create a “popping” sensation and open up the Eustachian tube, letting pressure inside your eardrum balance with the outside.10
However, you should be careful and gentle when you try this one – some people tend to blow too hard and end up hurting their eardrums instead of just easing the pressure. You may be better off using gentler alternatives that don’t expose you to this risk.
See A Doctor If It Persists
For simple pain relief, over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen or paracetamol can help. However, if you suspect a more serious infection, don’t put off seeing your doctor as soon as possible. An earache could also be due to an outer or middle ear infection or throat infection that may need antibiotics, a perforated eardrum, buildup of excessive earwax that may need ear irrigation, or a dental abscess filled with pus which your dentist will need to take care of as soon as possible.11
Preventing Ear Pain And Pressure
While you can’t do much to avoid ear pain from a cold, allergy, or sinus infection, you can minimize your risk of ear problems from altitude or external pressure changes.12
- Sip on water or juice or suck on candy when on a flight or driving in the mountains.
- Avoid sleeping when a plane is about to land.
- Never dive when you have a bad cold or cough or allergic condition.
- When you go scuba diving, ascend and descend slowly. Don’t rush this step. This allows the body and your ear to slowly adjust to the pressure changes.
|↑1, ↑2, ↑3, ↑4, ↑6, ↑10, ↑12||Ear barotrauma. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑5||Jefferson, Warren. The Neti Pot for Better Health. Healthy Living Publications, 2005.|
|↑7||Should Your Child See a Doctor?. Seattle Children’s.|
|↑8, ↑11||Earache. National Health Service.|
|↑9||Sinusitis in adults – aftercare. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|