Tips for Relieving Ear Pressure

Photo of man putting his hands on his ears while seated in an airplaneEar pressure is an uncomfortable and sometimes even painful sensation. There are many possible causes of pressure in the ears, and it’s important to understand the root of the problem in order to treat it. Below is an overview of what causes you to feel as if your ears are “full” and some common triggers.

Why Does My Ear Feel Full?

A feeling of pressure or fullness in the ears is the result of a blockage in the Eustachian tubes. Your Eustachian tubes are thin passageways that connect the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat. Their job is to drain fluids from the middle ear to prevent infections and to equalize pressure between the ears and the environment.

Certain conditions can disrupt the function of the Eustachian tubes, causing pressure, pain and even temporary hearing loss.

Triggers for Pressure in the Ears

Below are some common triggers for pressure in the ears.

Sinus Congestion

A sinus infection is inflammation of the sinuses – air filled pockets behind the nose, cheeks and forehead that produce mucus – usually prompted by a viral infection, bacterial infection or allergies. As well as pressure in the ears, a sinus infection can cause a stuffy nose, postnasal drip and a headache.

To relieve sinus congestion, you can…

  • Inhale steam in the shower or with a humidifier
  • Rinse out the nasal passages with saline
  • Use a decongestant nasal spray
  • Apply a warm compress
  • Take antihistamines if you have allergies
  • Take antibiotics if prescribed
  • See a doctor if symptoms don’t resolve within 10 days

Otitis Media

Otitis media, more commonly referred to as a middle ear infection, is buildup of fluid behind the eardrum that can, and often does, harbor bacteria. An ear infection causes ear pressure, fluid drainage, fever and sometimes hearing loss.

To treat a middle ear infection, we recommend…

  • Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Using medicated eardrops
  • Taking antibiotics if prescribed


Barotrauma is an injury caused by increase of water or air pressure. Sudden changes in pressure create a vacuum that stretches the eardrum, blocking the Eustachian tubes so they can’t do their job. This triggers ear pressure, pain, buildup of fluid, dizziness and temporary hearing loss. It’s common to experience mild symptoms when taking off in an airplane, driving through the mountains and scuba diving.

For relief from barotrauma, try…

  • Yawning
  • Swallowing
  • Pinching the nose and blowing gently
  • Chewing gum
  • Sucking on hard candy
  • Using decongestants

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the PIH Health House Ear Clinic today!

Los Angeles: 213.483.9930
Orange: 714.516.9570


This information is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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