Pressure on the ears – causes, treatment

Pressure on the ears

Everyone knows the feeling when you have pressure on your ears . The reasons are varied. However, if the so-called pressure equalization does not work, other ear problems also occur.

What characterizes pressure on the ears?

The auditory tube (also called tuba auditiva in medical terms) plays the greatest role in equalizing pressure on the ears. The auditory tube represents the connection between the middle ear and the nasopharynx and ensures that the middle ear is “ventilated” so that pressure equalization can take place. In addition, a secretion flows through the auditory tube, which comes from the middle ear and is transported into the pharynx. The tympanic membrane is only unaffected in its vibrations when the middle ear is free of secretions.


The pressure on the ears arises when the ventilation of the auditory tube is impaired and the pressure in the middle ear cannot be equalized. Doctors keep talking about “ventilation disorders” or “tubal ventilation disorders”. These problems arise when the auditory tube is blocked, swollen or cannot open properly.

If there is negative pressure in the ear, the eardrum bulges inwards; the person concerned complains of pain and the well-known pressure on the ears. If the auditory tube is closed in such a way that the secretion accumulates and presses against the eardrum, pain and pressure on the ear sometimes arise. If the secretion accumulates, this can lead to a middle ear infection .

Children in particular often suffer from such inflammations, since the auditory tube is not fully developed. Other causes of pressure on the ears are infections, allergies , too much earwax, problems with the temporomandibular joint, muscle tension in the area of ​​the jaw and palate, sudden hearing loss or a permanently open auditory tube.

diseases with this symptom

Diagnosis & History

The doctor must carry out various examinations in order to find out the cause. It is important that an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT) is contacted here. Changes in the eardrum can be detected by means of otoscopy (ear examination). Another method is pneumatic otoscopy. As part of this examination, the doctor uses an otoscope, with which the external auditory canal can be closed.

Air is then introduced through a balloon – directly into the ear canal – and then deflated. During this process, the doctor can observe the eardrum and see how the pressure ratio is developing. As part of a rhinoscopy (nose mirroring), any inflammatory processes that are mainly present in the nasal cavity can be diagnosed.

hearing test can be used to determine whether there are hearing problems. While the pressure – in many cases – subsides after a short time, the symptoms can sometimes be so severe that therapy is necessary.


Pressure on the ears can occur as a symptom of many causes. Potential complications depend on the underlying condition and range from simple side effects such as deafness and ear pain to more serious complications such as hearing loss. Depending on the cause, dizziness , abnormal sensations in the area of ​​the ears and auditory canal and phantom pain in the ear can also occur.

As the disease progresses, there is often a “feeling of fullness” in the ear and this often leads to difficulties concentrating and other secondary symptoms. If ear pressure occurs as a result of an illness, it is often accompanied by a cold , allergies or a middle ear infection . In extreme cases, the pressure on the ears is followed by sudden hearing loss, i.e. a partial or complete loss of hearing in one or both ears. If a damaged eardrum is the cause, hearing performance can also deteriorate.

The same applies to psychological causes such as stress , which can lead to further complications such as physical discomfort, insomnia or weakness. If the pressure on the ears is due to an injury or tension in the jaw or cervical spine , headaches and jaw pain accompany it, while the ear pressure increases. Tinnitus can occur and in turn lead to far-reaching subsequent symptoms and illnesses A clarification of the symptoms by a doctor is recommended due to the diverse complications and symptoms of ear pressure.

When should you go to the doctor?

If there is pressure on the ears, it is usually not necessary to consult a doctor. For example, if the pressure occurs during a cold or when you are at different altitudes, the symptoms should subside after a period of time without treatment and a doctor’s visit is not necessary.

However, in connection with other symptoms or if there is persistent pressure in the ears that cannot be balanced, it makes sense to see an expert to find the cause of the discomfort. Symptoms of concern related to ear pressure include severe pain in or around the ear, severe headaches in general, and reduced hearing ability up to hearing loss. If one of these symptoms occurs, a doctor should be consulted immediately in order to be able to rule out serious illnesses and alleviate the symptoms.

Even if the pressure on the ears is accompanied by dizziness or blurred vision, a doctor’s visit is unavoidable, since in the worst case a tumor could be responsible for the symptoms.

Doctors can usually quickly make a diagnosis based on the patient’s symptoms and history. If this is not possible directly, further tests are carried out to find the cause. With the help of the diagnosis, a suitable therapy can be initiated to protect the body from possible late effects such as hearing loss.

Treatment & Therapy

Classic measures are yawning, swallowing or chewing, although inhaling and slowly exhaling while the person concerned keeps their mouth closed and their nose pinched can also lead to success (so-called Valsalva maneuvers). If there is pressure on the ears during the flight, decongestant nose drops should be used before the plane takes off. In this way, the affected person can facilitate pressure equalization.

However, if diseases are responsible for the pressure on the ears, they must be treated. Different medications are also used. Doctors mainly prescribe decongestant nasal sprays , antibiotics , antiallergic agents or glucocorticoids . If the cause is fluid build-up behind the eardrum, surgical intervention can remedy the situation. The doctor inserts the tympanic tube into the eardrum, which ensures that the fluid can drain. An exchange of air is made possible.

Anatomical conditions can also cause pressure on the ears. Above all, enlarged pharyngeal tonsils or a curvature of the nasal septum are classic anatomical causes that can be corrected surgically. If, for example, there is a narrowed auditory tube so that newer methods such as balloon dilatation can also be used, the doctor will prefer that method.

As part of the treatment, the doctor inserts a balloon catheter into the auditory tube. It is inserted through the affected person’s nose using a special endoscope. The balloon catheter is then inflated with a physiological saline solution and subsequently expands the narrowed passage. Experts are of the opinion that stretching leads to more space subsequently being created and the constriction can be eliminated.

The pressure in the ear can very well be relieved by that treatment. Sometimes, however, it is not possible to say whether the result is a long-term one; the procedure is still relatively new and is only actually carried out in a few cases. Another method, which is also one of the new procedures, is laser tuboplasty. This is an operative procedure.

The doctor uses a laser to remove tissue directly from the entrance of the auditory tube and can thus increase the space required by the auditory tube. This gain in space should subsequently have a positive effect on the so-called ventilation disturbance. However, this method cannot be said to have a long-term result either, since there are insufficient studies that support laser tuboplasty.

Outlook & Forecast

Pressure on the ears is usually always associated with a specific situation that triggers it. It can only be treated in general in rare cases and usually disappears relatively quickly. Therefore, the affected person only has to see a doctor or take medication with this complaint in very rare cases.

The pressure on the ears creates an uncomfortable feeling that can make everyday situations more difficult. The affected person can also hear less well with this pressure, since the eardrum is not easily reached. This therefore leads to a reduced quality of life.

Pressure on the ears occurs in most people only for a short time and then disappears again when a certain situation or altitude has been left. Typical examples here are flying or diving. Likewise, ear pressure can also occur with the flu or a cold and isn’t really treated specifically.

If the pressure in the ears occurs very spontaneously and does not go away on its own, a doctor can be consulted. An ear, nose and throat doctor who is familiar with these symptoms and can help the patient is particularly suitable here. In most cases, this complaint goes without special treatment.


If there are anatomical reasons, the pressure on the ears cannot be prevented. It is advisable – for example if there is too much earwax – to have regular flushing or medical cleaning of the ear canal.

You can do that yourself

Unpleasant or even painful pressure on the ears usually indicates insufficient pressure equalization between the outer and inner ear and thus an insufficient function of the Eustachian tube, which connects the nasopharynx with the middle ear . The problem often occurs in the aircraft cabin, primarily during descent and landing, when the pressure in the cabin rises again to normal pressure. Pressure on the ears is noticeable when the eustachian tube is a little tight or is otherwise preventing pressure equalization.

A few everyday and self-help measures can help to overcome the uncomfortable or even painful pressure. In many cases, even simulated violent yawning helps. This stretches the tissue in the nasopharynx a little, so that the tiny amount of air that is necessary to equalize the pressure can pass. This is usually noticeable by a slight cracking and an immediate pressure relief in the ear. If yawning is unsuccessful, the more effective method is to pinch your nose and keep your mouth closed to create a kind of positive pressure in the nasopharynx. As a rule, the pressure is equalized with a strong cracking sound. The procedure can be repeated several times. If too much pressure has built up in the middle ear, it can be easily relieved by swallowing movements or yawning.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.