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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Ear congestion

05/04/2000

Question:

I would like to know why I have constant ear fullness (both ears) almost 24 hrs. a day for the last 1 1/2 years. I am told it is allergies...yet Clariton D or Sudafed does not make any difference. Occasionally I have ringing as well. I am currently on Augmentin for a sinus infection. This also makes no difference. I am scheduled for allergy testing in a couple of months. Is there any other cause than allergies or colds or sinus infections for constant ear fullness? When I go up and down hills I experience some popping of my ears which feel good. I am told I don`t have excessive wax or an infection when my ENT has looked in my ears.

Answer:

The ear congestion that you are describing certainly sounds as if it is allergy related. The symptoms are typically due to allergies affecting eustachian tube function. The eustachian tube is a tube that connects the middle ear space (deep to the ear drum) to the back of the nasopharynx. It has functions such as equalizing pressure on both sides of the eardrum, perhaps draining fluid from the middle ear space, etc. this is how people can "clear" their ears when they change altitudes (e.g. such as going up in a plane or going up and down hills). When this tube becomes congested or inflamed by allergies, it fails to equalize pressure normally. As a result, patients complain of pressure or congestion in their ears, a different or hollow sound to their own voice, occasionally ringing or "tinnitus" in their ears. Antihistamines +/- decongestants sometimes help relieve these symptoms. however, if you do indeed have environmental, food or drug allergies that are triggering an allergic response, then such medications may not work satisfactorily. Allergy testing and appropriate desensitization remain the best options.

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Response by:

Daniel   Choo, MD Daniel Choo, MD
Associate Professor and Director, Division of Otology/Neurotology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati