That feeling of pressure or fullness in your ears can be quite uncomfortable, whether it’s because you’re flying or due to a bout of sinusitis. So, what exactly causes it and, if your sinuses are to blame, what can you do about it?
Why Do You Feel The Ear Pressure?
That clogged up feeling and discomfort in your ears is the result of a difference in pressure inside and outside your eardrum, because of a blockage in your Eustachian tube. The Eustachian tube connects the back of your nose and throat to your middle ear and, when open, it allows air to move in and out of the middle ear. This helps equalize pressure on both sides of the eardrum. Conditions like flying or scuba diving where you experience changes in altitude – and therefore air pressure – can throw this balance off. Having a congested nose, as you do when you suffer from sinusitis, can also make you prone to this problem.1
Ear Pressure Due To Sinusitis
Sinusitis is the inflammation of your sinuses, the cavities around your nose. Mucus is made in your sinuses and they drain into your nose through narrow, small channels. Sinus blockages are usually due to swollen nasal passages caused by a cold or allergies. Structural problems such as a deviated septum or nasal polyps can be a cause too. When your sinuses get blocked, mucus accumulates, providing a perfect home for bacteria to grow out of control. This leads to infection and an inflammatory response from your immune system. And then you have to deal with the familiar symptoms of sinusitis – headaches, mucus, a stuffy nose, fever, pressure in your ears, bad breath, and pain around your forehead, eyes, or cheeks.
Treatment for sinusitis depends on the cause, but some home remedies can take care of it in most cases. If your symptoms don’t get better in around 7 to 10 days, or if they seem to be getting worse, a visit to the doctor is called for. Your doctor may prescribe medicines like antibiotics or corticosteroid sprays or drops. In some cases, such as when a structural issue is at the root of the problem, surgery may also be indicated.2
Things like chewing gum, yawning, or sucking on candy can usually open your Eustachian tube and relieve ear pressure. But one of the most important ways of clearing sinusitis is promoting drainage. So, when your ear pressure is caused by sinusitis and you have a congested nose, clearing your nasal passages becomes critical. Here are a few tips on how to do this:
1. Try Nasal Irrigation
Running water through your nasal passages can wash out mucus and hydrate membranes. You can use a neti pot, a nasal irrigation device used widely in Ayurvedic treatments, to do this.
How to: Make a solution of ½ a teaspoon each of baking soda and non-iodized salt in a couple of cups of sterile warm water. Fill a neti pot (or even a bulb syringe) with this solution, lean over a sink, run the water into your nostril, and allow it to run out the other nostril. If it runs out the same nostril, that’s ok too. You can now repeat this procedure with your other nostril. You can also learn how to do this correctly with the help of a trained therapist.
2. Drink Water
Water helps keep mucus thin and fluid. So, remember to drink plenty of it during the day. Keeping a water bottle at hand or on your desk can work as a reminder.
3. Use A Humidifier
If the weather is dry, use a humidifier. This can help keep your nasal passages from getting dry. However, do keep in mind that humidifiers need to be cleaned regularly – otherwise, they can become breeding grounds for mold and bacteria.
4. Keep Your Head Raised
Mucus typically pools in your sinuses when you place your head down. So propping up your head with an extra pillow while you sleep can be helpful.3
5. Use A Warm Compress
Holding a warm compress to your face can help liquefy thick mucus and soothe pain. To make a warm compress, just soak a clean washcloth in warm water and wring it out. Apply the compress to the face now.
6. Inhale Steam
Warm, moist air can be helpful in loosening up mucus. So inhaling steam 2 to 4 times a day can also clear out your nasal passages and get rid of mucus.4
How to: Simply boil a bowl of water. After it stops bubbling, lean over it and inhale the steam. You could also use a towel to cover your head and the bowl to keep the steam from escaping. Inhale continuously for around 10 minutes and let the steam work its magic.
You don’t need to restrict yourself to this time-honored manner of steam inhalation. Having a cup of hot steaming tea or a bowl of chicken soup or even spending a couple of extra minutes in a steamy shower can get cleansing steam into your nasal passages.
7. Try Eucalyptus Steam Inhalation
Looking for a way to power charge your steam inhalation? Simply add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the water once it’s been boiled. Eucalyptol, which is a volatile oil found in eucalyptus, has antiseptic and expectorant properties. It can clear out mucus and may even help you deal with nasty germs infecting your nasal passages.5
Do keep in mind though that eucalyptus is not recommended for children or pregnant or nursing women.6
8. Drink Turmeric Tea
Curcumin, a compound present in the golden spice turmeric, is known for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric has also been traditionally used to treat respiratory illnesses like colds and coughs in Southeast Asia. 7 According to research, turmeric can inhibit the release of histamine, the chemical in our bodies which plays a significant role in inflammation and which can cause a stuffy nose, whether due to an infection or allergy.8
How to: Try some steaming hot turmeric tea to get the benefits of this spice. To make turmeric tea, boil around 4 cups of water, add a teaspoon of turmeric powder, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain and drink up. You can add a touch of pepper to enhance absorption of the turmeric. And a little antibacterial honey just might sweeten your healing cup of tea!9
9. Have Horseradish
Horseradish has been traditionally used to deal with sinusitis. While there is no clear scientific research to back this up, it is believed that sulfur-containing compounds in this root vegetable help soften and liquefy mucus, making it easier for it to drain.10 Some lab studies also show that that volatile oils present in horseradish have antibiotic properties which may help deal with respiratory infections.11
How to: Grate the fresh root. Have half to 1 teaspoon of the grated root thrice a day.12
10. Drink Peppermint Tea
Peppermint is a herb that’s commonly used for respiratory issues. It works well as an expectorant and decongestant as it contains menthol, which loosens and thins mucus.13
How to: Have some hot peppermint tea. Steep a teaspoon of peppermint leaves for about 10 minutes in a cup of hot water to make this tea. And don’t forget to breathe in that lovely healing fragrance as you enjoy your tea.14 In fact, peppermint oil can also be added to a steam inhalation to enhance its effectiveness. Do keep in mind though that this remedy is not suitable for children.15
|↑1||Ear barotrauma. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑2||Sinusitis – Treatment. National Health Service.|
|↑3||What to do about sinusitis. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑4||Sinusitis. University of Maryland.|
|↑5||Eucalyptus. University of Michigan.|
|↑6||Eucalyptus. University of Maryland.|
|↑7||AHMED, TALHA, and ARSHAD TAIMOR. “HERBAL AND CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT OF BRONCHITIS.”|
|↑8||Kurup, Viswanath P., and Christy S. Barrios. “Immunomodulatory effects of curcumin in allergy.” Molecular nutrition & food research 52, no. 9 (2008): 1031-1039.|
|↑9||Shoba, Guido, David Joy, Thangam Joseph, M. Majeed, R_ Rajendran, and P. S. S. R. Srinivas. “Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers.” Planta medica 64, no. 04 (1998): 353-356.|
|↑10||Editors at Reader’s Digest. Doctors’ Favorite Natural Remedies: The Safest and Most Effective Natural Ways to Treat More Than 85 Everyday Ailments. Simon and Schuster, 2016.|
|↑11||Horseradish. University of Michigan.|
|↑12||Horseradish. University of Michigan.|
|↑13||Bronchitis. University of Maryland.|
|↑14||Peppermint. University of Maryland.|
|↑15||Peppermint Oil. National Institutes of Health.|