Many things, including a brain tumor and sinus cancer, can cause ear pain.

And believe it or not, GERD can block a Eustachian tube.

What exactly is the Eustachian tube?
It’s a canal-like structure that connects one’s middle ear to the nasopharynx. The nasopharynx is the upper throat and back of the sinus cavity.

The Eustachian tube controls pressure within your middle ear, making the pressure equal to that outside of your body.

And acid reflux can actually get up there.

“GERD can cause a blocked Eustachian tube, including symptoms of a ‘clogged ear,’ as well as possible middle ear infections,” says Dr. Edward Brettholz, MD, with Concorde Gastroenterology, who is board certified in both internal medicine and gastroenterology and is Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, NYU School of Medicine.

Dr. Brettholz explains, “If stomach acid refluxes into the back of the throat, it can cause inflammation of the Eustachian tube opening and blockage of that area. In addition, the acid can sometimes be found in the tube itself, causing inflammation and swelling.”

If you’re experiencing ear pain, stuffiness, a blocked sensation or some other kind of discomfort, and there’s also new-onset hearing loss or worsening of hearing, and/or tinnitus (a constant hissing or buzzing noise in an ear), you should see an ear, nose and throat specialist. GERD does not affect hearing or cause tinnitus.

If ear symptoms are accompanied by nosebleeds and/or any of the following: a lump under the inner corner of an eye, thick discharge from the eye, excessive tearing in one eye or a reduced sense of smell, this strongly points away from GERD as a possible cause – and instead suggests a problem originating in a sinus cavity or the tear drainage system.

A brain tumor called an acoustic neuroma can cause a sensation of a clogged ear and possibly ear pain. Often it causes tinnitus and hearing loss, but not always, especially if it’s very small.

The bottom line is that if you have persistent discomfort with one ear, do not ignore this. It potentially has MANY causes, and the likelihood that it’s cancer in a sinus cavity is very exceedingly low.

Dr. Brettholz lectures extensively and is involved in cutting edge research trials. He has a special interest and expertise in liver diseases, GERD, inflammatory bowel disease and hemorrhoid treatment.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.