What Causes a Fullness Feeling in the Ear?

Experiencing a sensation of fullness in the ear can be both uncomfortable and disconcerting. This feeling can arise from various causes, ranging from benign to those requiring medical attention. Below are some of the most common reasons why someone might experience this sensation.

Causes of Ear Fullness

Ear fullness can originate from areas both in and around the ear. The Eustachian tube, responsible for balancing ear pressure, is a cylinder that connects the middle ear to the back of the nose. It can cause ear fullness when it is blocked due to factors like allergies or infections. The outer ear may contribute to this feeling if there is an accumulation of earwax obstructing the ear canal. In the inner ear, conditions such as Meniere's disease can lead to pressure changes that manifest as ear fullness. Issues with the temporomandibular joint, located near the ears, can also cause a similar sensation, often related to temporomandibular dysfunction. Lastly, the sinuses, when congested or inflamed, can extend pressure into the ear canal, aggravating the feeling of fullness and are often associated with sinus congestion.

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD)

The Eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat. It helps maintain equal air pressure on both sides of the eardrum. If the Eustachian tube becomes blocked due to a cold, sinus infection, or allergies, it can lead to a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear.

Earwax Buildup

Impacted earwax can block the ear canal and cause a fullness sensation. While earwax is a natural and necessary part of ear health, too much of it can lead to discomfort and hearing issues.

Fluid in the Middle Ear

Fluid buildup, often resulting from an infection or allergies, can also cause a feeling of fullness in the ear. This condition is more common in children but can affect individuals of all ages.

Ear Infections

Infections of the ear, especially the middle ear (otitis media), can lead to pressure and fullness. Ear infections are often accompanied by pain, fever, and hearing problems.

Temporomandibular Dysfunction (TMD)

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is where the jawbone connects to the skull, located near the ears. Dysfunction or disorders of this joint can lead to a sensation of fullness in the ears. To learn more about temporomandibular dysfunction, click on the link.

Sinus Congestion

When sinuses are congested or inflamed, this pressure can extend into the ear canal, causing a feeling of fullness. Conditions such as sinusitis or allergic rhinitis are common culprits of sinus congestion.

Sudden Atmospheric Pressure Changes

Rapid changes in atmospheric pressure, such as during airplane takeoffs and landings or diving underwater, can lead to a temporary blockage in the Eustachian tube, contributing to a feeling of fullness.

Acoustic Neuroma

This is a noncancerous growth that develops on the vestibular nerve, which connects the inner ear to the brain. Although rare, it can cause ear fullness, along with hearing loss and tinnitus.

Meniere's Disease

A disorder that affects the inner ear, Meniere's disease can cause pressure in the ear, hearing loss, tinnitus, and episodes of vertigo.

Neck Muscle Tension

Neck muscle tension can cause ear fullness due to its proximity to the muscles and nerves that control the Eustachian tube, which regulates pressure in the middle ear. When neck muscles are tense, they can affect the function of these nearby structures, leading to sensations of fullness or pressure in the ears.

Patulous Eustachian Tube

Ear fullness can sometimes be caused by a patulous Eustachian tube, which occurs when the Eustachian tube remains abnormally open. This can lead to sensations of fullness, echoing sounds, and sometimes even autophony (hearing one's own voice or breathing excessively loudly). Treatment usually involves addressing the underlying cause, which may include weight loss (if obesity is a factor), medications to promote Eustachian tube closure, or surgical interventions in severe cases.

If you're troubled by a persistent sense of fullness in your ear, it might be time to consult with a specialist. For those in or around Chicago, consider reaching out to an ENT specialist at Exhale Sinus | TMJ | Headache | Sleep. They have expertise in diagnosing and treating various conditions that could be responsible for your discomfort. To explore treatment options for ear pain and related symptoms or to get personalized advice, visit their website.


For direct assistance or to schedule an appointment with a Chicago ENT specialist at Exhale Sinus | TMJ | Headache |Sleep, follow this link to contact us. Don't let ear fullness take over your comfort and peace of mind—help is available.