Ear Popping; Ear Pressure Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety disorder can produce a wide range of symptoms, including ear popping and ear pressure symptoms. This page explains their common descriptions, why anxiety can cause ear symptoms, and how you can get rid of them.
Because these symptoms can seem odd, and even bizarre at times, many anxious people worry and distress about them. Unfortunately, these types of behaviors continue to fuel symptoms, which can set up a vicious cycle of symptoms, worry, more symptoms, and so on.
Understanding why anxiety can cause anxiety symptoms can go a long way to help breaking this cycle. To that end, here are:
Ear popping and ear pressure symptoms descriptions:
- It feels like your ears are popping more than usual.
- You notice that your ears are popping for no apparent reason.
- Your ear(s) feels like it has an unusual amount of pressure in it, but there is no reason for it.
- Your ears are popping more often and for no reason.
- It feels like your ears are more sensitive to pressure changes, such as going up or down hills or other elevation-related situations.
- You can “pop” your ears more frequently.
- It feels like there is a strong pressure in one or both ears.
- It feels like it doesn’t take much to get your ears to pop.
- It feels like your ear(s) experiencing much more pressure than normal.
And so on.
This ear popping or ear pressure symptom can affect one ear, both ears, or alternate back and forth between ears. It can also disappear for a while then return over and over again.
This ear popping or ear pressure symptom can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you have your ears pop or feel pressure once in a while and not that often, have it off and on, or have it all the time.
This symptom may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.
This symptom can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.
This ear popping or ear pressure symptom can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.
This ear popping or ear pressure symptom can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.
All of the above combinations and variations are common.
Ear popping and ear pressure feelings can seem more disconcerting when undistracted or when trying to rest or go to sleep.
Why does anxiety cause ear popping and ear pressure symptoms?
The ear is comprised of three spaces: the inner ear, middle ear, and outer ear.
Your ears pop because of the pressure difference between the air pressure in your middle ear and the air pressure outside. This is how that works:
The inner ear is a small space that has air in it. Normally, the ear pressure in the middle ear and the air pressure outside are the same. But when the air pressure outside changes, such as when changing altitude, and the air pressure in the middle ear remains the same, this causes a difference between the two air pressures. A difference in air pressures puts pressure on the eardrum, which creates the sensation of pressure in the ear.
Swallowing or yawning, however, which opens the Eustachian tubes (the tube that links the middle ear to the back of the throat) allows the ear pressure to balance. This rebalancing often causes a “popping” sound.
We normally experience air pressure changes and popping when changing altitude, such as when flying in an airplane or going up and down large hills. But stress can also cause air pressure changes in the middle ear, which then requires adjusting to the air pressure outside. As stress elevates and persists, so can the ear popping and pressure symptoms.
So here again, stress, including persistently elevated stress, such as that caused by overly apprehensive behavior, can cause symptoms associated with hearing and the ears.
How to get rid of ear popping and ear pressure anxiety symptoms?
When ear popping and ear pressure symptoms are caused by anxious behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, this anxiety symptom should subside. Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
When ear popping and ear pressure symptoms are caused by chronic stress, such as that caused by overly apprehensive behavior, it may take a lot more time for the body to calm down and recover, and to the point where this anxiety symptom subsides.
Nevertheless, when the body has fully recovered from the stress of being anxious, whether acute or chronic, this anxiety symptom will completely disappear. Therefore, this anxiety symptom needn’t be a cause for concern as it is a common symptom associated with anxiety and stress.
You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about this symptom. Sure, ear popping and ear pressure can be bothersome, but again, it’s not harmful and will subside when your body has recovered from the stress response and/or chronic stress.
If you are having difficulty managing your worry, you may want to connect with one of our recommended anxiety disorder therapists. Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to overcome issues with anxiety, its symptoms, and what seems like unmanageable worry.
For a more detailed explanation about anxiety symptoms, why symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.
1. Juhn, S K, et al. “Effect of Stress-Related Hormones on Inner Ear Fluid Homeostasis and Function.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 1999, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10565728.
2. Horner, K C. “The Emotional Ear in Stress.” NCBI - PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2003, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14505685.
The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder coach, counselor, or therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.
For more information about our Anxiety Counseling option; our Available Anxiety Therapists; to Book An Appointment with one of our anxiety therapists; common Anxiety Signs and Symptoms; common Anxiety Attack Symptoms; the symptoms of panic attack disorder; anxiety Recovery Support area; information about Anxiety; and our Anxiety 101 section; or click on the appropriate link or graphic below:
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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated October 9, 2018.