Can Acid Reflux Cause Sinus And Ear Problems?

The most common reason for acid reflux in the body is the development of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It is a condition that occurs due to the disruption of the lower esophageal sphincter LES.

A significant muscle that is responsible for diverting the flow of stomach acids away from the esophagus but in case it relaxes at the wrong time, the acids will reflux and enter our esophagus, causing its common symptoms such as heartburn, hoarseness, chronic cough, chest pain, and even mucus build up.

Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) is a very similar disease that may vary from traditional symptoms of GERD and pivot more on sinus problems. LPR happens for the same reasons as GERD, but it is usually called silent reflux due to the differences between their symptoms. In LP, R, the refluxed acids will cause a burning sensation that will not only cause heartburn but likely reach the back of your throat and irritate your voice box, causing you to feel the discomforting sensation of a lump in your throat, chronic cough, sore throat, and post-nasal drip.

Acid Reflux And Sinus Problems

What is Sinusitis?

Sinuses are cavities or air-filled pockets located near the nasal passage, and their function is to produce mucus. Sinusitis is a condition usually caused by sinus infections. It involves the swelling of our sinuses and causes symptoms such as a runny nose, irritability, bad breath, excess mucus that may be colored green or yellow, high temperature, and a reduced sense of smell.

Acute sinusitis usually lasts 2-3 weeks and then goes away independently with little or no medication.

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Relationship With Acid Reflux

Unlike acute sinusitis, chronic sinusitis that may have happened as a result or symptom of acid reflux will intensify and prolong. A recent study has shown acid reflux and sinusitis is often linked together and can occur hand in hand, making the consequences much more discomforting.

Acid reflux can trigger sinusitis if stomach acid reflux travels up to your nasal passages and reaches the sinuses. This can happen easily when you are lying down or even bending over. Sinusitis can also cause reflux laryngitis which is a feeling of irritation in the back of the throat. This usually happens at night and is reported to affect your vocal cords.

Acid Reflux And Ear Problems

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a symptom of problems occurring in the auditory system of our body. It is a recurring sound derived from your inner ear rather than an outside source. Usually, people have described it as a persistent ringing sound, but it can also be a buzzing or clicking sound in one or both of your ears.

The condition’s cause can be the buildup of earwax, ear infection, or brain tumor. Over 25 million United States citizens are diagnosed with tinnitus and suffer from its adverse effects. Tinnitus can be extremely distracting and causes irritability and discomfort. 

Relationship With Acid Reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which is the primal cause of acid reflux, has been linked with tinnitus, and studies have shown the link between these two. GERD may cause gastric contents to flow into the food pipe and enter the middle ear through a round window membrane, causing problems such as ear infections, recurring humming sounds, dysfunction of eustachian tubes, and eventual tinnitus problems.

Acid reflux will incapacitate the membrane making it more prone to potential damage and weakening its strength overall, which increases the risk of getting ear infections and tinnitus. It may go as far as causing the risk of hearing loss. 

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Treatment options

Suppose you are experiencing symptoms of GERD/ acid reflux, LRP, sinusitis, or tinnitus. Your primary instinct should be to inform your healthcare provider and proceed further.

Conditions like these are usually hard to be wary of, but ignorance can result in fatal and life-threatening consequences. Medical treatment should be sought out immediately because, as per results, severe GERD or acid reflux can lead to esophageal cancer, chronic sinusitis can last up to 12 weeks and cause nasal obstruction or nasal polyps for that matter, and lastly, tinnitus can cause potential hearing loss.

Treatment For Sinusitis

Suppose your sinusitis lasts longer than deemedordinaryl. An ENT (ear, nose, throat) doctor should be consulted. They’ll diagnose you properly and find the underlying cause of your symptoms. They’ll start your treatment by primarily solving the cause of the problem and then proceed toward the effects. For instance, If you diagnose positive for GERD, then the treatment will be completely different and begin by treating GERD itself. Still, in the case of acute sinusitis, your ent can recommend the following options:

  • Saline nasal sprays are recommended as they can help with mucus drainage. Spraying them in your nose several times daily will immediately rid you of your infection.
  • Pain relievers such as Tylenol and aspirin can also be prescribed.
  • In the case of chronic sinusitis, the permanent solution is a surgical procedure called endoscope nasal surgery in which the ent will get a non-invasive camera view of your sinus passage and remove all the nasal obstructions. It is a procedure performed under anesthesia and is reported to be safe.

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Treatment For Tinnitus

Just like sinusitis, an ent specialist’s involvement is essential in treating tinnitus because without diagnosing your condition’s severity and the underlying cause, there is very little chance of tinnitus simply going away.

Since tinnitus is more of a symptom and less of a disease, treating the primal cause will automatically treat tinnitus. For example, if GERD/ acid reflux is the sole reason for ear pain, GERD should be focused on and not an ear infection. However, some daily exercises can be practiced to improve your condition.

  • If tinnitus is caused by excess ear wax, ear drops or ear irrigation methods can be adapted. 
  • Microsuction ear wax removal is probably the best option, as a vacuum-like instrument will remove excess wax and relieve your pain.
  • In severe cases, tinnitus retraining therapy is recommended to train a patient’s brain to tune out the constant ringing or buzzing sound that may have become a reason for ill mental health.

Treatment For GERD/Acid Reflux

Now that we have discussed the treatment options for non-GERD-related sinusitis and tinnitus. The sinus and ear problems caused by GERD are its side effects, and treating the cause (GERD) will also solve its impacts. First and foremost, you should get yourself diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease and proceed further. 

It can be self-diagnosed by looking out for common GERD symptoms such as heartburn, acidity, and chronic cough, but the barium swallow method can be used medically.

You’ll be asked to drink a solution, and then several x-rays will be taken to spot abnormalities such as a hiatal hernia. Ph monitoring is another common method to diagnose GERD and LPR. A small tube will be inserted inside your esophagus for 24 hours, allowing you to go about your day as usual.

The main function of that tube is to monitor the number of stomach acids that reflux in your esophagus. After this process, if you are diagnosed with GERD. The following treatments can be pursued:

  • The most common and primary advice is to change your dietary habits and avoid eating trigger food substances such as high-fat dairy products, fatty food, spicy food, and citrus fruits.
  • Some lifestyle changes are recommended, like quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption. Obese patients are advised to focus on losing weight as that will reduce the pressure on their stomach, and LES will function better.
  • Medical procedures can also be adapted, such as inserting a Linx device in your body to help LES perform its functions. Linx device is a ring of magnetic beads that will reduce the flow of stomach acids into the esophagus, reducing the symptoms of GERD.
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) can be taken. They are a drug that tightens the lower esophageal sphincter and accelerates the process of getting the stomach contents out. Proton pump inhibitors are effective because they fix the problem from roots and decrease the production of acids inside our bodies.
  • Lastly, gastric bypass surgery can be performed to remove the pyloric valve from your body. Its removal will reduce the pressure on the abdomen, and the stomach acids won’t be forced to flow into our esophagus.

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Can Acid Reflux Cause Sinus And Ear Problems Summary

As discussed above, it can be concluded that acid reflux can definitely cause sinus and ear problems because the reflux of toxic stomach acids into our esophagus can travel up to our nasal passage, and they can travel as far as to enter the round window membrane and affect the auditory system.

This can happen while lying down or bending over. Even though the regular occurrence of both sinusitis and tinnitus is nothing to be paranoid about, If you are persistently experiencing the intense symptoms listed above, medical attention is necessary, or you are at risk of experiencing long-term problems. The permanent solution to solving ear and sinus problems is to treat GERD itself. Otherwise, the issues might resurface even if you take temporary measures to treat them.