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Ear Pressure

Ear Pressure

There are certain physical activities such as yawning, swallowing or chewing gum that helps in relieving ear pressure. Ear pressure is due to the effect of the Eustachian tube. The Eustachian tube is used for sensing and maintaining the internal pressure of the ear with respect to the atmospheric pressure.

Ear fullness, also known as ear barotrauma, occurs when the ear pressure cannot be relieved by normal physical activities. There are various symptoms that accompany ear fullness which includes muffled hearing, ear infections such as tinnitus, pain, tenderness or itching, fever, and discharge from the ear.

Ear barotrauma is common when there are changes in altitude in the environment. The condition may not harmful for some people, however, some cases may cause further complications. There are acute cases and chronic (recurring) cases of ear barotrauma.


The major cause of ear barotrauma is the blockage of the Eustachian tube. When this tube is blocked, the symptoms appear because there is no equilibrium between the internal pressure of the ear and the pressure outside the eardrum. Ear barotrauma is mostly common in airplane's ascent or descent and this is known as 'airplane ear'. Other activities during which ear barotrauma is felt include hiking, scuba diving, and mountain climbing. Other causes include colds or flu, stuffy sinuses, otitis media and accumulation of earwax.


Symptoms include dizziness, stuffy ears, slight hearing loss or difficulty in hearing. If the condition is left untreated, the symptoms may intensify to include ear pain, bleeding in the nose, moderate to severe loss of hearing and eardrum injury.

Risk Factors

People who have allergies, colds or flu and infections may susceptible to ear barotraumas. Young children and infants are also at risk due to the fact that their Eustachian tubes are smaller and more easily blocked.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Although ear barotraumas are mostly not severe, if symptoms like bleeding in the air or severe pain are present, an appointment should be made with the doctor.

In acute cases, some activities such as yawning, chewing gum, breathing exercises and taking antihistamines or decongestants can relieve ear pressure. In chronic cases of ear barotraumas, surgery is used to relieve ear pressure.