Sinus Congestion in Ears Driving you Crazy?

By | April 4, 2016
(Last Updated On: January 6, 2017)

Sinuses are present in the cheekbones and forehead and are made up of eight air-filled spaces.  They are connected to the inside of the nasal region produce mucus that gets drained into the nose through small channels.  One of their primary purposes is to help in flushing out foreign particles and bacteria.  In a healthy person, the mucus flows from the sinuses into the nose.  It then typically moves down into the throat, and then the stomach, where harmful bacteria are destroyed by the digestive acids.

Sinus congestion in ears

All the information you need on sinus congestion in ears is contained right here, and below is an outline of this article:

  1. What Exactly is Sinusitis?
  2. What is the Link Between the Sinuses and the Ears?
  3. Sinus Congestion in Ears
  4. What are the Best Over-the-counter Medications for Treating the Problem?
  5. Can Sinus Congestion Affect Other Ear Conditions?
  6. Are There Any Potential Long Term Effects of Sinus Congestion and the Ears?
  7. Conclusions

1. What Exactly is Sinusitis?

Sinusitis or rhino sinusitis is a common infection that affects most people and occurs as an inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose, throat and sinuses. The cavities surrounding the nasal passages become swollen disrupting the drainage process, leading to a build-up of mucus. This causes difficulty in breathing and may additionally result in facial pain and headaches.

Acute sinusitis may be caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi due to allergies or pollution. People suffering from asthma, cystic fibrosis and those with poor immune systems are especially susceptible to this infection. Smokers and diabetics are also prone to develop sinusitis. Most often it starts with a common cold, and develops into progressively more severe symptoms, eventually requiring treatment.

Symptoms of Acute Sinusitis:

  • Nasal congestion making breathing through the nose difficult
  • Thick yellow or green discharge from the nose
  • Pain, inflammation and pressure around the nose, forehead, cheeks and eyes
  • Coughing, especially at night
  • Severe headaches
  • Ear pain
  • Fever
  • A general feeling of tiredness
  • Halitosis

2. What is the Link Between the Sinuses and the Ears?

Sinus pressure in earSinus pressure in ear: Congestion of the sinuses often leads to a feeling of pressure in the ear, as a result of an accumulation of fluid in the ear canals. This occurs despite the absence of a direct connection between the sinuses and the ear. The Eustachian tube, which is a narrow passage connecting the ear and throat, drains the middle ear into the part of the throat that is behind the nose called the nasopharynx.

3. Sinus Congestion in Ears

In case of an infection of the respiratory tract, both the nasopharynx (the upper part of the pharynx) and nasal mucosa get infected. The inflammation results in swelling and blocking of the Eustachian tubes and the drainage passages of the sinuses. Discharge of fluids from the sinuses accumulates behind the ear drum and this causes sinus pressure in ears, leading to ear pain and resulting in the symptoms associated with sinusitis.

4. What are the Best Over-the-counter Medications for Treating the Problem?

Thankfully, there are many highly effective over-the-counter (OTC) medications available to help remove the sinus congestion.

Decongestants narrow the blood vessels that are swollen due to inflammation. This helps in better drainage of the sinuses and makes breathing easier. They are available in the form of tablets, liquids and nasal sprays.

Pain relievers help reduce the pain caused by the increased pressure in the sinuses. Aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), Aleve (naproxen sodium), and Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen) are effective pain relievers. Nasal irrigation can also be used to relieve the congestion in the sinuses.

Oral decongestants can give better relief than nasal sprays but a few side effects may result. Mucus thinner that improves sinus drainage is called a mucolytic and is often prescribed along with cough suppressants. Guaifenesin is a mucolytic that is commonly used for sinusitis.

Always follow the instructions on the label if you are using OTC medications. Make sure you consume the recommended dose for the recommended duration based on your age and weight. Steroid sprays should not be used for a longer period than that mentioned on the label. Excessive use can cause the mucous membranes to swell more than before.

If symptoms persist for more than 10 days and breathing becomes difficult, the infection may be due to bacteria and you may need to consult a doctor for further treatment. Antibiotics such as amoxicillin may be recommended. Surgery is the last resort for people suffering from chronic sinusitis and is done to improve the drainage in the sinuses.

5. Can Sinus Congestion Affect Other Ear Conditions?

If sinus pressure in ear worsens, this can eventually result in a blockage of all the airways, leading to tinnitus or ringing in the ears. Tinnitus can severely affect sleep and also the normal activities of an individual. Sinus-related ear pain isn’t a very serious problem. With unclogging of the sinuses, it should go away. But if symptoms persist, see a doctor, especially if OTC medications don’t seem to help.

Sinus and ear pain are a commonly present combination of symptoms arising out of colds and flu. The ear clogged sinus can lead to unpleasant living, but serious complications arising out of such a situation are rare.  Sinus congestion may exacerbate symptoms of other ear conditions but there does not appear to be evidence of a worsening of the underlying problems themselves.

6. Are There Any Potential Long Term Effects of Sinus Congestion and the Ears?

If sinus congestion is not treated, the symptoms will continue to bother you, making you unnecessarily miserable by the day. Unless the root cause of the problem is taken care of, the ear pain will persist and may even develop into tinnitus and/or partial hearing impairment. It is very important to ensure the proper functioning of the Eustachian tubes for optimal hearing.

7. Conclusions

Blocked sinuses due to cold and allergies can result not only in facial pain and headache but also lead to severe complications in the ear. To avoid this, it is essential that you take adequate steps to keep your sinuses free from clogging so that they continue to help you fight external dust particles and bacteria and keep you healthy.

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