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Can Nasal Polyps Cause Blocked Ears/Pressure in Ears?

Introduction



Though nasal polyps are by themselves harmless and usually non-cancerous, they can have a serious impact on the proper functioning of the nose and related organs like the ears and throat. Additionally, they may also lead to serious conditions like sleep aponea, loss of taste and smell, sleep disturbances, breathing problems, facial pain, headaches, severe infection in the sinuses etc. Hence, it is important to identify the exact reason for each one of these symptoms and deal with it in the right way. Ear blockage or a feeling of pressure inside the ears could be one of the symptoms of nasal polyps.

Causes of Ear Blockage

The structure of the ear is very complex. The ear canal which allows sound to penetrate through to the ear drum should always be free from blockages. Within the canal there are glands that produce a waxy exudate that prevents dust, fungi, microbes, insects, water etc from penetrating through to the delicate inner parts of the ear. When there is excessive wax secretion it may block the ear. However, other problems like inflammation, foreign body inside the ear, tumors or growths, large and numerous clusters of nasal polyps which press against the surrounding areas, pressure changes, etc can cause blockage.

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The Eustachian tubes which connect the middle ear and the back of the throat are also prone to becoming blocked. This could again be due to the presence of nasal polyps inside the sinuses which cause pressure and fluid collection due to blocked passages.

Symptoms of Ear Blockage/Pressure in the Ears

  • Hearing Loss
  • Ear Pain
  • Feeling as if there is heaviness in the ears
  • Ringing, whining or popping noises
  • Dizziness
  • Pain while swallowing or moving the head
  • Itching or excessive drainage from ears

Nasal Polyps and Ear Blockage/Pressure in the Ears

If the ENT specialist has eliminated other causes like infections, excessive wax, hardened/impacted wax, foreign body in the ear, insects etc, one of the causes that they may suspect for ear blockage could be nasal polyps. These are fleshy, non-cancerous, sac-like, transparent tissue swellings that usually occur within the lining of the nasal passage and along the sinuses. Initially they may not pose problems for the patient, but if they grow larger in size and number, they could create serious issues. The blockage is usually caused by inflammation and irritation of the region. The polyps block the natural irrigation pathways and air passages inside the nose, ears and throat, leading to pain, infections and loss of hearing if not dealt with in a timely fashion.

Diagnosis

The doctor can usually view the nasal polyps with a lighted instrument shone into the nasal cavity. However, if they are deeply embedded or they are inside the sinuses, doctors may suggest a CAT scan or MRI scan to identify the size, number and location of the nasal polyps. Hearing and audiometry tests may be conducted to assess the amount of hearing loss.

Treatment Options

Once nasal polyps have been diagnosed, there are several treatment options available, based on the size, location and number of polyps.

Maintenance

Additionally, it’s important to remember that nasal polyps can be a chronic problem that recurs even after surgery. Hence, several life-style changes have to be made. Avoid smoking, spicy food, exposure to infections, cold climate, known allergens, dusty and polluted environment etc.

If the ear blockage/ear pressure cause is nasal polyps, it is important to keep the ears free of wax build-up, wear ear-muffs or protective head-gear while driving motor-cycles, prevent cold air from entering the ears, keep the area clean and dry and go for regular ENT check-ups.

An ENT Specialist’s Opinion

Though ear pain may have several causes, one of them could be nasal polyps. According to an ENT specialist, Dr Stacey Silvers, MD, symptoms like rhinitis, and nasal congestion with heavy flow of mucous could point to the existence of nasal polyps. Dr Silvers, who works at Madison ENT and Facial Plastic Surgery, New York, opines that polyps are usually caused by frequent irritation/inflammation caused by an allergen in the environment. This in turn leads to nasal congestion which commonly causes ear blockage or obstruction of the Eustachian tubes, even though the polyps don’t directly occur in these areas. Congestion causes pressure, clogging and ear-pain because of the swelling in the surrounding mucosa. The polyps can be easily seen when viewed with a scope or lighted instrument. Hence it’s important to consult a qualified ENT Specialist who has specialized in otolaryngology, like Dr Silvers as she is also trained in sinus surgery.

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