ZocdocAnswersAre the nasal passages connected to the ear?

Question

Are the nasal passages connected to the ear?

Does the nasal passages drain into the ear? What is the process of how everything is related? why do some people get ear infection with a cold while others may get a sinus infection? While others are luckily not to get any..Also, how common would you say ear infections are in adults? please be more specific not just "not very common", like how many adults do you see with an ear infection in a year?

Answer

The middle ear is connected to the back of the throat by a small tube known as the eustachian tube. This tube allows pressure and liquid to equalize between the interior of the ear and the throat. Since the nasal passages are also connected to the throat, it is definitely possible to get ear involvement with a sinus infection or a common cold. Since both of these conditions cause swelling and inflammation in the back of the throat, this can affect the way the eustachian tubes function, leading to symptoms such as pressure or fluid buildup ("stuffiness") in the ears. That being said, ear infections are very, very uncommon in adults. Symptoms of ear pain or stuffiness in adults almost always represent eustachian tube dysfunction (fluid building up in the ear as the result of a cold, sinus congestion, or similar condition), but this is almost never an infection and it very rarely requires any sort of antibiotic treatment. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, then you should visit your primary care doctor. They will be able to examine your nasal passages, throat, and ears, and determine whether you have any evidence of ear infection or, much more likely, eustachian tube dysfunction.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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