Ear Fullness: What Causes It and What Can You Do About It?

If you’re experiencing ear fullness and “popping” in the ears, you may have a condition known as eustachian tube dysfunction. Here’s what you need to know to treat this condition.

Are you experiencing a frustrating sense of ear fullness? This annoying symptom can have a variety of causes including clogged ears due to wax accumulation, infection and Meniere’s disease, but one of the more common causes is eustachian tube dysfunction.

The eustachian tube is the passageway that leads from the throat to the middle ear. It serves a sort of pressure equalizer, opening and closing to equalize pressure which is particularly important when you’re flying in an airplane or ascending a tall mountain. Sometimes the eustachian tube malfunctions leading to a sensation of ear fullness along with symptoms of general ear discomfort, pain, and even dizziness. If you have ear fullness which tends to clear when you swallow, it’s likely that you have eustachian tube dysfunction, although you should see your doctor before making this assumption to rule out other causes.

You doctor will likely make the diagnosis after ruling out other causes such as wax buildup and by the history of “popping” and partial clearing of the symptoms with swallowing. Once the diagnosis of eustachian tube dysfunction is made, what can you do to relieve the ear fullness?

Since the symptoms of eustachian tube dysfunction can be caused by a cold, sinus infection, or allergies, treating these conditions can help clear the symptoms of ear fullness. In some cases this would require antibiotics to treat the underlying infection. In other cases simple antihistamines and decongestants including antihistamine nasal sprays such as Astelin can provide relieve. Nasal steroid sprays available by prescription from your doctor may also be effective for relieving the symptoms of eustachian tube dysfunction.

There are some simple things you can do at home to relieve ear fullness due to eustachian tube dysfunction. One maneuver that will sometimes work is to hold your nose with your mouth shut and breathe out. Sometimes this will open the closed eustachian tubes. Chewing gum can also be an effective treatment for the symptoms of eustachian tube dysfunction.

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you may be more prone to ear fullness and symptoms of eustachian tube dysfunction. Certain persons are also susceptible due to anatomic causes such as a narrow eustachian tube. If you fall into one of these categories, it’s important to be prepared if you plan on flying. When flying, suck on hard candy or chew gum during the ascent and descent. Small measures such as this can be very helpful in counteracting the ear fullness, pain, and popping that goes with changes in middle ear pressure.

Be sure to see your doctor if you have recurrent problems with ear fullness and symptoms of eustachian tube dysfunction. In severe cases, surgery may be needed to correct the problem.

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  1. thank you again for good info.

  2. Thank you, Kristie. My daughter has this popping in her ears. We couldn’t figure out what was causing it, but now I think it may be the condition you describe.

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