Ear Pressure

The sensation of pressure in the ear is usually caused by a negative pressure in the middle ear. This can be a persistent problem after a cold, a seasonal allergy, scuba diving or airplane flight. These activities are examples of when the eustachian tube has become swollen or stressed and is not allowing the air pressure of the middle ear to equilibrate with the surrounding air pressure.

Sometimes you can fix the problem by pinching your nose, closing your mouth and blowing out air from your lungs. The use of oral and topical decongestants and antihistamines, even topical nasal corticosteroids are not particularly effective.

If this problem does not go away in a few days, you may want to be seen in our office. The ear can be examined to make sure that there is no problem with the ear canal or ear drum and the pressure of the middle ear can be tested with a tympanogram. Other treatment options can be discussed.

Occasionally people experience the sensation of ear pressure when the pressure of the middle ear is normal. This can occur with some inner ear conditions, such as Meniere’s disease, or when the sensory nerves of the middle ear are irritated and are providing incorrect information to the brain (migraine variant neuropathy). One of our doctors can help to sort this out for you. 


                      Ear Pain

Ear pain can vary from a dull ache to intense or stabbing pain, but it is usually more uncomfortable than a pressure sensation.


Common sources from the ear


  • Infection of the pinna or ear canal (swimmer’s ear)
  • skin lesions of the external ear (chondrodermatitis nodularis)
  • Infection of the middle ear (acute otitis media)

Common sources of pain distant from the ear ("referred" pain)  

  • Inflammation of the muscles or joint of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
  • A throat infection, particularly peritonsillar abscess

Uncommon Causes of referred pain

  • Tumors of the throat, tongue or larynx

Chondrodermatitis nodularis helicis

Chondrodermatitis nodularis helicis is an uncommon small, painful, inflammatory nodule attached to the cartilage of the outer ear. The skin lesion is raised, can be pale or slightly reddish and is often covered by scale or a small ulcer. This disorder can grow to 2 - 4mm in diameter and can stay unchanged for years. It occurs commonly after age 40 and two thirds are men. The cause of this disorder is unknown, but may be related to prolonged pressure on the external ear, increased sun-exposure, or frostbite. Often the ear that forms the lesion is the side that the patient usually sleeps on and its tenderness makes it difficult to sleep. This inflammatory lesion involves the cartilage as well as the skin.  


  • Avoid pressure on the lesion
  • cortisone injection into the lesion every 2 to 4 weeks until clear
  • excision of the skin lesion and the inflamed underlying cartilage. A skin graft may be used to cover the wound. Lesion can recur. 


Alliance ENT ††† Main Office: 845 North Main St., Providence, RI 02904 ††† Phone: (401)331-9690 Fax: (401) 331-9609
Email: Office@alliance-ENT.com ~ Please Note, this is for general information only, not medical emergencies

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