Dizziness, confusion and plugged ears: is anxiety to blame?

Last update on Mar, 28, 2024

Anxiety affects more and more people due to the stress caused by daily responsibilities and fast-paced living. This anxiety can also trigger symptoms like clogged ears, confusion, or vertigo

Anxiety and confusion: why do we feel numb?

When our anxiety is severe, we might feel numb, as if we are living in a bubble or expericing a strong headache. One of the possible causes of this condition is muscle tension, particularly in the neck, which can lead to confusion.

Furthermore, other causes of anxiety can be:

  • Frustration
  • Grief
  • Resentment
  • Chronic stress
  • Hypertension
  • Some drugs
  • Hormonal changes.

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Clogged ears and vertigo: two symptoms of anxiety

Can anxiety cause ears to feel clogged? As we can see, anxiety can manifest itself through a range of physical symptoms, such as pressure, ear pain or dizziness. Clogged ears triggered by anxiety may stem from an increase of sensory sensitivity, making us more aware of changes in ear pressure. This reaction could be the body's response to stress, provoking muscle tension as well as changes in blood flow that affect the structures within the ears.

Additionally, clenching your jaw, grinding your teeth or similar anxiety-related behaviours can increase the pressure in your ears.

Stress can trigger vertigo and numbness. This is because the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline can directly impact our vestibular system, which is located in the ears, this plays a crucial role in helping us maintain our balance.


When headaches and clogged ears occur simultaneously, they can raise concerns about anxiety. Clogged ears can stem from anxiety, but also from migraines, which sometimes trigger a sensation of ringing or whistling.

Clogged ears, in addition to a runny nose and fever, are also a symptom of a sinus headache, which occurs when the paranasal sinuses are inflamed.


During episodes of anxiety, symptoms such as clogged ears may also be accompanied by vertigo, as well as by:

  • Dizziness
  • Ear pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Decreased audibility
  • Ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, in other words the sensation of ringing or whistling in the ears.

Causes of vertigo and plugged ears

The sensation of ear pressure and clogged ears is often linked to anxiety and can have many causes, such as:

  • Eustachian tube dysfunction: this tube links the middle ear to the throat, helping to regulate the air pressure in the ears. Anxiety can provoke muscle tension, or changes in the blood flow which can influence the function of the Eustachian tube, increasing ear pressure or causing ear discomfort.
  • Temporomandibular disorder: clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth as a result of anxiety can result in inflammation and tension in the muscles and in structures near the ears, leading to ear pressure ad discomfort.
  • Hypervigilance: anxiety can sometimes increase awareness and sensory sensitivity, including pressure changes in the ears. This heightened sensitivity can exacerbate the feeling of pressure and discomfort in the ears, making it more evident and bothersome.

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Managing anxiety and remedies for plugged ears

There are many strategies available to manage and relieve the sensation of plugged ears caused by anxiety:

  • Relaxation techniques: deep breathing, muscle relaxing and guided imagery can help to reduce muscle tension and offer relaxation.
  • Jaw exercises and stretching: jaw stretching and other gentle exercises can help release tension and reduce ear pressure.
  • Mindfulness and meditation: these activities help us enhance our self-awareness, regulate our emotions and reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety, like plugged ears.
  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy: this type of therapy can help us deal with the underlying causes of anxiety and help us manage its physical and psychological symptoms.
  • Drugs: healthcare professionals could prescribe drugs that help us manage anxiety and its symptoms, including ear pressure. Consulting a doctor is essential to determine the most suitable treatment plan based on your specific needs.
  • Lifestyle changes: regular physical activity, a balanced diet, adequate rest and moderate alcohol consumption and caffeine intake can enhance your overall well-being and alleviate symptoms of anxiety.

When to see a doctor

If you are experiencing intense and persistent ear pressure, it is important to consult a doctor to exclude potential medical problems and find the appropriate treatment. 

Additionally, if your anxiety impacts your daily life, a hearing professional could give you some useful advice on how to manage it in the best possible way. 

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