One in every six people¹ in the United States suffers from migraines and severe headaches.
While most people assume that migraine symptoms only include severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, other debilitating symptoms are often associated with this neurological disease, including migraine ear pressure. It can lead to extreme vertigo, feelings of instability, and a ringing sensation in the ear.
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There are various types of migraines, each having its symptoms. Doctors have even determined that migraines do not always present as head pain but can include everything from ear pressure to ringing in the inner ear.
Migraine has also been seen as a cause of ear pain. In one study, 71%² of patients with unexplained ear pain met the criteria for migraine. The authors concluded that migraine should be considered a cause of secondary ear pain so patients can receive the appropriate treatment.
Migraine ear pressure can make you feel like the ground is moving or falling. It can also lead to hearing issues and even impact your senses. Here are its common symptoms:
A feeling of pressure in the ears
Sensitivity to smell or light
A feeling that water or something is crawling in the ear canal
Nausea or vomiting
Stabbing pain in the ear
Unfortunately, as is the case with migraines, there are a lot of theories about why migraine ear pain occurs, but doctors are still not 100% sure what causes these issues.
In general, medical professionals tend to associate this ear pressure with the misfiring between the nerve cells in the brain. This misfiring can impact the way you experience space around you and how your brain controls balance, leading to feelings of dizziness, unsteadiness, ear pressure, and vertigo.
However, while numerous elements can trigger migraine ear pressure, some of the more typical triggers include:
Anxiety, stress, and depression
Specific types of foods
Rapidly moving the head
In addition, heredity may also play a role in these issues since many people who experience migraines have a family history of them.
While studies are still being done on the link between migraines and ear symptoms such as hearing loss, researchers suggest that these abnormalities can result from the compromised blood supply to the ear during migraine attacks.
Researchers claim that these symptoms come because migraines can damage the tiny hairs in the inner ear. These hairs convert sound vibrations into electrical signals sent to the brain. They can become damaged and die if they do not get an adequate blood supply.
Consequently, with a migraine attack, a sudden constriction of the labyrinthine arteries can cut off the blood supply and lead to gradual yet permanent hearing loss.
Migraines, specifically vestibular migraines, are one of the most common causes of vertigo, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and coordination problems. These symptoms may also come on simultaneously as the migraine or happen before the headache occurs.
Migraine ear pressure treatment is often similar to migraine headaches and includes medications and lifestyle changes.
If your symptoms are severe and impact your life, a doctor can prescribe medication to help with this pain.
These medications include:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs³)
Triptans⁵, such as Sumatriptan (Imitrex), Zolmitriptan (Zomig), Rizatriptan (Maxalt), and Eletriptan (Relpax)
Anti-sickness medicines (anti-emetics)
Those who suffer from severe migraine ear pain also take medications daily to prevent migraines. These include medications such as:
Beta-blockers (e.g., Propranolol)
Anti-depressants (e.g., Amitriptyline, Amoxapine, Desipramine)
Anti-epileptics (e.g., Valproic acid)
Calcium channel blockers
It is important to add that when you are taking preventive medicines, you should take them every day regardless if you are having migraine symptoms or not.
In addition to medications, natural treatment options such as lifestyle changes can also help reduce the symptoms of migraine ear pressure.
These changes include:
Getting proper rest
Avoiding certain foods
Doing mindfulness exercises
When migraine ear pressure starts, you often need to take prescription drugs or over-the-counter medication to help reduce the pain or the other symptoms that often come with this condition.
In some situations, vestibular rehabilitation therapy⁷ (VRT)can be used if the condition is serious and results in severe symptoms.
This treatment typically includes exercise to improve your eye’s ability to track movements and stabilize the gaze. It also includes tasks that can help improve hand-eye coordination and balance.
Because research suggests that diet can also play a significant role in migraines, changing what food and drinks you consume may help prevent or reduce the frequency of these debilitating attacks.
While there is no set index of food and beverages that may trigger a migraine, there are certain things that may trigger this condition⁸. They include:
Alcohol, primarily red wine
Tyramine-containing foods, including beans
Artificial sweeteners, including aspartame
Chinese food or other foods containing MSG
Processed meats (salami, sausages, bacon, and other meats containing sulfites)
Some studies⁹ also indicate that it may not be the food that causes this problem but hunger and other food cravings. This is because those with a food craving often have lower blood sugar levels, and by the time they get food in their system, it may be too late to prevent a migraine.
However, to get the complete picture regarding food and migraines, more studies need to be done to find the true effects of this relationship.
Migraine ear pressure is a severe problem that can leave individuals struggling to live their lives, preventing them from doing even the most basic tasks, such as getting out of bed.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of migraine ear pain, consult your doctor and get examined. They can prescribe medication or recommend specific lifestyle changes to help reduce these symptoms and help you finally get the relief you need.
Migraine medications (2022)
Migraine medications | RxList
Treatment | NHS
Diet and headache control | American Migraine Foundation
Migraine signs & symptoms | Association of Migraine Disorders
The link between migraines and hearing loss | Sound Relief
Migraine related vertigo (2017)