Can Acid Reflux Cause Ear Infection? Explained

Are you experiencing a discomforting ear infection that keeps resurfacing even though you followed the necessary treatment?

This could be because your infection isn’t regular but somewhat acid reflux-induced.

Please keep reading to learn how a digestive disorder can cause ear infections despite their location differences.

Can Acid Reflux Cause Ear Infection?

doctor with glasses checking a woman's ear for ear infection

As you must know, your stomach contains essential acids for your body to function correctly. Still, these acids are only beneficial as long as they remain in your stomach, which usually happens unless you develop certain diseases. Acid reflux is one such digestive problem. It occurs when a muscle named the lower esophageal sphincter malfunctions and causes stomach acid to leak into your food pipe along with undigested stomach contents.

To answer your question, acid reflux can cause ear infections, but luckily, this complication isn’t a typical reflux symptom.

Chronic acid reflux is much more severe and causes frequent heartburn. It is referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease, but ear pain and sinus infections are not common GERD symptoms.

Thus If you are experiencing ear infections, that means you have developed an extraesophageal variant of GERD, laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR)

Take a look below to learn how LPR causes ear infections.

Read also: Acid reflux vs. Gastritis: Understanding the Difference

Relationship Between Acid Reflux And Ear Infections

woman checking a mans ear for ear infection

Read also: Best Vodka For Acid Reflux

You must wonder how stomach acid can reach your ears and cause infections. We have comprehensively explained it below for better understanding.

Acids Make Ears Prone To Gastric Acid

The main difference between GERD and LPR is the capability of acids to reach beyond your esophagus. When stomach acid gets to the back of the throat, it can cause common symptoms such as sore throat, sour taste in your mouth, chest pain, and chronic cough; however, LPR acids can go further beyond and expose your ears to gastric contents as well. 

Eustachian tubes link the nasopharynx directly to the ears, and If acids reach these tubes, they can cause chronic otitis media (middle ear infections) and sharp earaches.

 Fact: The nasopharynx is the upper part of the larynx that is connected to the nasal cavity 

Inflammation Of The Larynx

Have you often heard people talking about silent reflux? Unsurprisingly, It is just another term used for laryngopharyngeal reflux. Why is LPR called silent reflux? It’s called silent because, unlike GERD, it doesn’t cause common symptoms in the chest area. 

LPR travels up your swallowing tube, reaches the larynx (your voice box), and causes inflammation. 

The middle of your ear is connected to the back of your throat to maintain the correct air pressure and drain fluids. Understandably so, when you experience throat symptoms of acid reflux, they can also affect the ears.

Acids will make ear canals susceptible and prone to damage, and problems such as hearing loss, tinnitus, and eustachian tube dysfunction will occur.

Throat Symptoms Might Include

  1. Difficulty breathing
  2. Difficulty swallowing
  3. A sour or bitter taste in your mouth
  4. The feeling of a lump in your throat

Tip: if you are experiencing these throat symptoms frequently and more often than chest ones, you have probably developed LPR. Consult with your healthcare provider for a professional diagnosis

Read also: Does Cauliflower Cause Acid Reflux?

Acid Reflux Can Cause Upper Respiratory Infection

In severe cases where acid reflux gets much more frequent and intense, the acids can even enter your airways and cause health problems such as chest congestion and upper respiratory infection. 

It is proven in previous research that an upper respiratory infection can most certainly cause your eustachian tubes to get clogged, and ear infections will surface when that happens.

Mucus and middle ear fluid will plug the entire ear, and when this fluid presses against your eardrum, discomforting symptoms such as swelling and irritation will generate.

Even though ear infections caused by upper respiratory infections can not be considered a direct reflux symptom, they will remain the root cause.

Signs Of Ear Infection

  1. Tinnitus (a persistent ringing, buzzing, or humming sound in your ear)
  2. Difficulty hearing 
  3. Sharp pain inside your ear
  4. Discharge flowing from the inner ear
  5. Irritation on the inner and outer parts of the ear. 

Read also: Does Decaf Coffee Cause Heartburn?

How To Treat Ear Infections Caused By Acid Reflux? 

doctor holding a notepad

Now that you know how acid reflux causes ear infections, it is crucial to understand that the chances of any ear infection going away are low. 

Proper attention and treatment are required. Otherwise, the infection will keep obstructing your life.

Read also: Is Hummus Good For Acid Reflux? Solved

Consulting An ENT Specialist

You are recommended to consult a doctor, preferably an ENT specialist, as soon as you notice the symptoms.

An ENT doctor specializes in ear, nose, and throat diagnosis. They will probably consider your symptoms and then examine your throat through a  physical exam. 

The exam can be performed by entering a scope through your nose or mouth, and signs of redness, swelling, inflammation, or mucus will indicate the development of LPR.

Diagnosis can also be performed by ph level testing, esophageal manometry, and upper GI endoscopy.

Treat The Ear Infection 

You can treat an ear infection caused by acid reflux in several ways, but some of the most effective ones are listed below. 

  1. Applying a warm compress or cloth to the infected area
  2. Over-the-counter medicines such as TUMS and Tylenol will help you with both acid reflux and ear infection
  3. Prescribed ear drops that are best suited for your symptoms
  4. Further ear pressure can worsen the infection, so sleep on the other side.

Read also: Home Remedies For Heartburn: 20 Fast Ways To Get Rid Of Acid Reflux

Treat The Root Cause 

even though the above-listed methods will provide you with temporary relief from the infection’s pain and discomfort. It is essential to know that acid reflux has several other consequences. Unless you treat the root cause properly, these side effects and consequences will resurface. 

You can take counter antacids, h2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole to avoid those symptoms.

Some lifestyle changes would need to be made to prevent reflux. Those might include weight loss, dietary modifications, and necessary precautions.

In the unfortunate events where you realize that acid reflux has worsened beyond prescription medicines and even highly potent drugs are not relieving your pain, surgical intervention will become necessary, and you will need immediate medical attention.

Read also: Does Pumpkin Cause Acid Reflux?

Can Acid Reflux Cause Ear Infection Summary

Ear infections can be excruciatingly painful and uncomfortable. They can disrupt your day-to-day life and hinder your focusing abilities.

Acid reflux has a wide variety of symptoms; unfortunately, an ear infection is one of them. As discussed above, Stomach acids can travel up to the eustachian tubes and be the root cause behind this occurrence. 

Even though there are several quick ways to treat the infection, the best way is to treat acid reflux. Only then will you get rid of ear infections and further complications permanently. 

We hope this article answers your question. Don’t forget to share it with your friends facing the same problem.