Earaches can be excruciating. Although they’re common in children, whose eustachian tubes are shorter and oriented more horizontally, adults develop earaches, too. An earache could have a number of causes, including:
- Swimmer’s ear
- Jaw arthritis
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
- Ear injury
- Obstruction due to an object or excess earwax
- Sore throat
- Tooth infection
- Sinus infection
If you get earaches on a regular basis, the problem may start in your sinuses — even if you don’t realize that you get chronic sinus infections.
Catherine Fuller, MD, is an expert allergist and immunologist who wants you to breathe better and be pain-free. At our office in West Los Angeles, California, she can determine if sinus troubles are the cause of your earache and customize a treatment plan so you feel better.
Are your sinuses causing problems in your ears? Here’s how and why that could be happening.
What your sinuses do
Your sinuses are a series of paired, air-filled cavities on either side of your face between your forehead and cheeks. Sinuses are part of your respiratory system.
These cavities are lined with mucus-secreting tissues as well as tiny hairs called cilia, both of which act as filters to the air you breathe in through your nose. The mucus they produce moves through your sinuses into your nasal passages and then into your throat, where you swallow it.
When your sinuses are healthy, they help keep you healthy, too, by trapping pathogens that you then swallow and eliminate. They also:
- Lend resonance to your voice
- Protect your face during trauma
- Modify rapid temperature changes when you breathe in through your nose
However, every year in the United States, about 29 million women and men are diagnosed with a sinus infection, also known as sinusitis. When you have sinusitis, your sinuses are overwhelmed by bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens. They then become inflamed, which creates uncomfortable and painful pressure.
How your sinuses affect your ears
When your sinuses are inflamed and clogged, the pressure they create doesn’t necessarily stay localized. Clogged, inflamed sinuses can block the drainage of the eustachian tube from your ear into your throat.
If fluids can’t drain from your tubes into your throat, they may build up in your middle ear. The excess fluid causes pressure and also can become infected. Having ear pain doesn’t necessarily mean that your ear is infected, however.
Your symptoms can help differentiate an ear infection from a sinus infection:
Signs of an ear infection
- Trouble hearing
- Pus-like ear discharge
- Itchy ear
- Red, swollen ear
- Throat pain
Signs of a sinus infection
- Runny nose
- Stuffy nose
- Postnasal drip
- Bad breath
If you suspect that your earache originates in your sinuses, or if you have chronic sinusitis and now have ear pain, too, Dr. Fuller can help.
Get sinus (and ear) relief
Depending on the type of sinus infection you have Dr. Fuller may recommend treatments such as nasal irrigation, increased hydration, over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, or OTC decongestants.
If your infection is caused by bacteria and doesn’t respond to first-line interventions, she may prescribe a course of antibiotics.
If you have an earache along with symptoms of sinusitis, call Catherine Fuller, MD, today at 310-828-7978 or use our online appointment request form to get the sinus care you need.