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The Sinus-Ear Connection

Clogged sinuses can mean more than a stuffy nose. Pain, dizziness, and that muffled-ear sensation, like you’re in a descending plane, can be caused by sinus woes, too. Here’s what you can do to relieve your ears.

Stuffiness and Ear Discomfort and Sinus Pain

Your sinuses and ears are connected inside your head. So sinus congestion and stuffiness can affect the pressure in your ears. Treating sinus congestion may help overall discomfort and pain from that pressure.

• Seek moisture. Use a nasal saline spray several times a day, or hold a warm, moist washcloth to your face. This can help relieve sinus pressure and pain.

Humidifiers can also help keep sinuses from drying out. Sitting in the bathroom with a hot shower running for 15 minutes or so also works for sinus pain.

• Check the medicine cabinet. Try an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as Aleve ( naproxen sodium), Tylenol ( acetaminophen), or Advil or Motrin ( ibuprofen), to ease an earache.

• Try a decongestant. Over-the-counter decongestant tablets or nasal sprays can help sinus blockage. That may relieve clogged ears. Don't use nasal sprays for more than three days. Using them longer can make your nose more stopped up.

• Avoid temperature extremes. They can make sinus-related ear problems worse. If your ears are bothering you, it isn’t the time to go jogging on a hot day or build a snow fort with the kids.

• Keep your head up. Bending forward with your head down can make the pressure worse. You may want to skip yoga class until the sinus episode is over.

• Blow your nose gently. Try blocking one nostril while blowing through the other.


A build-up of pressure in the inner ear, including pressure caused by sinus problems, can sometimes make you feel dizzy.

• Avoid fast movements. Don’t stand up too quickly or shake your head fast.

• Drink plenty of fluids. Drink lots of water in the evening. Staying hydrated keeps nasal mucus thin. That helps it drain and means less nighttime stuffiness.

• Avoid caffeine, salt, alcohol, and tobacco products. These can affect your circulation. Minor changes in blood flow can affect your ears.


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