Tinnitus, a ringing in the ear that can be intermittent or continuous and vary in loudness, affects an estimated 50 million adults in the United States. While the most common cause of the condition is prolonged exposure to loud sounds, in some cases it can result from a sinus infection or sinusitis.
It is important to remember that tinnitus is not a disease, but instead a symptom of another underlying condition. Nasal congestion related to a sinus infection can create abnormal pressure in the middle ear, which impacts normal hearing and may cause the symptoms of tinnitus.
In sinusitis, the inner lining of the sinuses swells due to allergies, dust, and exposure to viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Your sinuses, typically filled with air, become filled with fluid. This results in facial pain and pressure, nasal stuffiness and discharge and congestion. The subsequent pressure can make you feel nauseous, dizzy and create headaches. If the sinusitis gets worse, it will completely block airways and lead to sinus-induced ringing in the ears.
The pressing of the swollen sinus cavity or the increase of pressure caused as you start to blow your nose can exert pressure on the ear drum, which then reacts through ear ringing. Additionally, when your nasal pathway is blocked, the ear canal also gets blocked, causing a disruption of the flow of sound into the ears. The ear then concentrates on the internal noise, which creates a ringing noise. Some people may hear the blood flowing and heartbeat in their ear.
In most situations, these symptoms disappear when the infection is treated and the pressure lessens. Be aware, however, that some antihistamines can actually aggravate tinnitus. Additionally, while antihistamines and decongestants may eliminate they symptom of sinus pressure, they may not be solving your underlying problem. If you suffer from sinus infections, your best course of action is to consult with a sinus specialist who can create a comprehensive plan to treating your specific situation.