Ear Pressure Pain

Ear pressure pain arises due to pressure changes inside the ear. Within each ear is a Eustachian tube, which is an auditory tube connecting the middle ear to the throat and nose and it also controls ear pressure. Blockage to the Eustachian tube due to any reason can affect pressure regulation inside the ear, leading to ear pressure pain.

Differences in pressure between the external environment and the inner ear also cause ear pressure pain. For example, altitude changes such as while flying in an airplane or while scuba diving, result in external pressure exerted in the spaces inside the ear. You may also experience mild ear pressure pain inside the elevator or while driving up the mountains. 

If pain due to changes in ear pressure occurs only occasionally with improvement in symptoms after pressure is equalized, it is not something to worry about. However, frequent ear pressure pains can lead to further complications inside the ear and must be treated by a qualified doctor.​​

Ear pressure pain can occur in one or both ears. Besides pain in one or both ears due to changes in pressure, other signs and symptoms of this disorder include:

  • Mild to severe hearing loss.

  • Feeling of fullness or pressure inside one or both ears.

  • Buzzing and ringing in the ear.

  • Spinning sensation (vertigo).

  • Headache.

  • Fluid discharge from the ear.

In severe cases, the pressure difference between the external environment and inside the ear may damage the eardrum or even cause it to rupture and bleed. Therefore, pus-like fluid or bleeding from the ear must not be ignored. 

If you suspect the symptoms of your ear pressure pain have become severe, consult an ENT (Eye-Nose-Throat) specialist working with the Eye and ENT Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital to get an expert medical opinion.​​

The symptoms of ear pressure pain subside after a few hours or once when the pressure between the external environment and inside the ear is equalized. 

However, if your symptoms become severe and persist for more than a few hours, it may be sign that there may have been leakage inside the ear. For the same reason, bleeding or drainage from the ear must not be ignored. ​

Other serious symptoms which require your ear pressure pain to be assessed by an ENT (Eye-Nose-Throat) specialist include:

  • Fever accompanying the ear pain.

  • Vertigo and loss of balance.

  • Hearing loss.

  • Persistent and recurring symptoms.

At The Aga Khan University Hospital the only internationally accredited hospital of Pakistan, our team of expert and highly trained ENT specialists at the Eye and ENT Service Line will provide with you with expert medical advice. You can discuss your symptoms, concerns and queries in complete confidence with your doctor.​​

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.​

Your medical history is a critical first step in diagnosing ear pressure pain. The doctor will particularly ask questions to see if the feeling of pressure and pain is aggravated due to changes in pressure in the external environment, such as in an airplane or while diving. 

Further examination of the inside of the ear will be conducted to check if the ear pressure pain has led to other complications inside the ear, such as fluid or blood build-up behind the eardrum. Hearing test may also be conducted to check if there has been hearing loss due to ear pain pressure. Further tests may be required if the disorder has advanced and symptoms are severe.

Doctors working with the Eye and ENT Service Line are specially trained to examine, evaluate and diagnose any diseases of the ear, nose and throat. A thorough evaluation and diagnosis will help devise a specialized treatment plan to treat your ear pressure pain.​​

Symptoms of ear pressure pain due to changes in altitude can be temporarily managed by swallowing, breathing with the mouth open or chewing gum. These measures open the Eustachian tube and allow air to flow out of the middle ear. 

In case of increasing outside pressure, you should pinch your nose and close your mouth and try to breathe out gently through the back of the nose to help ease air pressure out of the Eustachian tube.

For people suffering from an infection or nasal congestion, ear pressure pain can be quite uncomfortable. If you have an infection or congestion, your doctor may advise you to take nasal decongestants or nose drops to help equalize pressure on the eardrums. In some cases, antibiotics and steroids may also be prescribed to clear up the problem, especially if the doctor identifies signs of pus inside the ear.

If your ear pressure pain has advanced to an infection or some other complication in the ear, you may be advised to make lifestyle changes till the symptoms have subsided. For example, you may be asked to limit traveling on an airplane or avoid diving while the symptoms persist. 

Ruptures of the ear drum gradually heal up with the help of medications and proper treatment and care, taking up to two months to heal. In very rare cases, surgery may be needed to repair damaged eardrum and membranes inside the ear.​​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.