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Ear pressure can be a painful experience for some, merely annoying, irritating, and minorly problematic for others - but because ear pressure is often a symptom of many other problems, hearing and elsewhere, it’s advisable to see a doctor if the pressure doesn’t go away or becomes painful.

Extreme changes in ear pressure, or barotrauma, are likewise unpleasant and something to be mindful of. However, with the proper care and attention, your hearing health will benefit greatly: Don’t wait until symptoms have already taken hold to start looking after your ears’ well-being.

Boots Hearingcare takes a look at some of the how ear pressure works and what to do if you have uncomfortable pressure in your ears…

Ear pressure symptoms

Ear pressure symptoms vary on a case-by-case basis; they may be mild for some but excruciating for others, which is why the warning signs should be taken seriously.
The most common symptoms of ear pressure include:
  • Feeling of and/or discomfort in the ear
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
  • Muffled hearing
  • Ear pain
If your hearing has been affected by ear pressure, take our online hearing test to find out if you could benefit from an appointment with one of our audiologists. If the ear pressure is causing your ear to ache or becoming painful, then make an appointment with your GP instead.

Ear pressure causes

Blocked Eustachian tubes are often to blame for ear pressure problems. Any blockage affects how ear pressure works, potentially leading to barotrauma.

High altitudes and underground areas – such as during flight, climbing mountains, scuba diving or even riding the Tube - are no-go zones if you want to keep your ear pressure regulated. This is because they increase pressure levels and thus cause the eardrum to stretch.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you just avoid them altogether: It’s about finding ways to protect your delicate ears in these environments. Anything from ear plugs to staying hydrated can help maintain healthy ear pressure.

Ear barotrauma treatment

Most ear barotrauma cases are temporary; they usually start to clear up on their own, without the need for any treatment, a few minutes or an hour after initial symptoms present.

In general, however, the more serious the case, the greater the likelihood it will take longer to heal. For instance, ear pressure resulting in a ruptured eardrum can take several weeks to a month or more for your body to recover.

If you do happen to notice any signs of complications due to excessive ear pressure, then contact your GP immediately.

Chronic ear pressure

Chronic cases of ear barotrauma can often bring on more severe symptoms. These include: If you notice these symptoms, go for a check-up with the doctor.

Frequently asked questions

How long does ear barotrauma last?
On average, ear barotrauma takes up to two weeks to completely heal. Although severe cases involving surgery can take six months to a year for a full recovery.
Is there a link between headache and ear pressure?
Increased middle ear pressure may bring on headaches. These are usually mild but can be more severe. If you suffer from headaches while experiencing ear pressure, talk to your doctor about how best to manage them.
How can you relieve ear pressure?
Eustachian tube dysfunction, which affects the middle ear leading to muffled hearing, is the most likely culprit behind your ear pressure issue. These tubes will need to be cleared so the pressure can equalise again. Yawning, chewing, sucking on a sweet and wearing ear plugs at high altitudes are all good for balancing ear pressure.

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