How sinusitis affects your hearing

Can a sinus Infection cause hearing problems?

Sinusitis and hearing problems may sound like an odd pair. However, sinusitis often affects your hearing ability as it can manifests itself as a condition called ear congestion, a feeling of plugged ears. If not treated promptly, this increased middle ear pressure can lead to the perforation of the tympanic membrane, or eardrum, as well as secretions from the inner ear.

What is sinusitis?

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses, the bones that communicate with the nasal cavity. When the sinuses close, mucus builds up and causes inflammation. Causes of sinusitis include a bacterial, fungal or viral attack or swollen turbinates, which in turn causes obstruction of the sinuses. This swelling is often due to contact with irritants such as smoke, chlorine or dust. Allergies can also be a cause of sinusitis, as inflammation causes mucus to build up.

What are the symptoms of sinusitis?

Sinusitis can manifest in many ways, the most common are: 

  • headache
  • pain in the face and around the eyes
  • tearing
  • nighttime cough
  • fever
  • nasal congestion

Frequently, a general discomfort is experienced. Hearing may also be affected by the infection. In fact, nasal obstruction prevents air from properly passing through the the eustachian tube, the canal that connects the ear to the nasopharynx, thus prompting an ear congestion. Tinnitus can be another symptom of sinusitis.

Can sinusitis cause ear pain?

Sinusitis and earache are closely related as a sinus congestion often develops into an ear congestion. Infected sinuses tend to swell and become congested with mucus, in turn exerting painful pressure on nearby body parts, such as the middle ear. This leads to experiencing severe discomfort in one or both ears.

Can sinusitis cause pressure in ear?

Those who suffer from sinusitis often experience earache, caused by blockage of the eustachian tube, which increases the feeling of pressure in the ears. To relieve the pain, you can:

  • apply a warm compress to the nose and forehead;
  • use a saline nasal spray a couple of times a day;
  • avoid extreme temperatures, excessive heat or cold;
  • drink plenty of water and hot drinks;
  • inhale natural steam;
  • use a humidifier;
  • avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco products.

Can sinusitis cause tinnitus?

Sinusitis and tinnitus are connected as the nasal congestion caused bv sinusitis, if particularly intense, can lead to tinnitus. The reason is that the sinus cavities and the ears are interconnected systems. When pressure around the eardrum increases, due to congestion in the ear, the typical ringing of tinnitus occurs. Although uncommon, in some cases pulsatile tinnitus, when the ear becomes aware of a change in blood flow in nearby blood vessels, may occur. This type of tinnitus is usually caused by increased blood flow.

Can sinusitis lead to hearing loss?

Hearing problems related to sinusitis depend on the presence and propagation of the ear infection. As excess fluid pours into the eustachian tube, and swells, pressure in the eardrum also increases, causing hearing loss and the common feeling of plugged ears. However, this condition is not permanent and as the infection heals, the hearing problem also disappears.

How can you treat sinusitis?

Sinusitis is mainly treated with pharmaceuticals. Treatment may vary based on each specific case, so it is best to consult a professional for adequate treatment. Some of the most common remedies are:

  • antibiotics (only in case of bacterial infection)
  • nasal decongestants
  • nasal corticosteroids
  • therapeutic aids such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • antihistamines, if the sinusitis is caused by allergies.
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