Acid Reflux & Ear Pain – Are They Related?

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acid reflux ear pain

People often ask me can acid reflux cause ear pain or can acid reflux cause earache? If you have been suffering from pain in your ears yet there seems to be no clear cause, then in fact your ear pain could be coming from acid reflux believe it or not.

I know at first thought this may not make sense and for me when I was affected I was rightly confused myself. Let me explain how this happens in the first place.

Understanding How Acid Reflux Can Affect Your Ears

Whether you only suffer from minor acid reflux symptoms or have a more notable problem like GERD or LPR (silent reflux) each set of people can be affected. Out of the 3 sets of people the people with LPR are they most likely to be affected. If you didn’t know someone with LPR doesn’t have the typical reflux symptoms like heartburn but is most commonly affected by pain in their throat.

The notable difference between someone with the likes of GERD and LPR in this case is that typically someone who has minor acid reflux or GERD won’t experience throat symptoms and this is because the acid isn’t refluxing as far up as in the case with LPR. Whereas for someone with LPR it is a frequent occurrence to have acid reach up towards the throat and mouth area. The reason this is worth mentioning is because this is exactly the same area where the acid can enter the ears where it will arrogate and inflame them.

How this actually happens is due to the tube that connects the ear to the throat called the eustachian tube. When someone is having reflux that is entering their throat this can lead to said acid entering this eustachian tube which then of course connects directly to the inner ear. This acid then causes inflammation and irritation to the ear.

At this point you may be asking the question “how does that work?” because plenty of people can eat and drink acidic foods/drinks and they are not affected and that would be mostly true. While there are little studies done to cover this topic, it seems clear to me that is isn’t only the acid causing the damage to the middle ear but something that is contained within it called pepsin.

In fact there was one study which covered how pepsin effected the middle ear and there was a correlation to show the pepsin was affecting and damaging the inner ear caused by acid reflux – you can read the study here. If you didn’t know pepsin is a digestive enzyme that is produced in the stomach to help break down proteins. When it comes up with the acid it will basically try to digest anything in comes in contact with which includes your inner ears. The pepsin is the main reason a lot of people suffer from LPR and I believe someone who has LPR is more prone to being affected by ear ache caused by acid reflux than someone who has minor acid reflux or GERD.

Acid Reflux Ear Pain – How to Treat

Luckily if it is acid reflux causing your ear pain then you can treat that the same way as you would treat acid reflux. I personally would recommend following the same advice I recommend for treating LPR because the same advice that is applied to help their symptoms will also be the perfect guidance to prevent your ears being damaged by acid reflux and to allow for healing.

First off, I would recommend you read this article on LPR diet which I would recommend you implement yourself alongside my complete acid reflux diet plan called the Wipeout Diet Plan. Also for more information on acid reflux and GERD check out my ultimate guide on acid reflux / GERD.

Secondly in terms of medicine I would recommend taking Gaviscon advance (UK version). In my article on Gaviscon advance you can read about why it is the most effective way to prevent acid reflux.

Ideally you want to only take the Gaviscon advance until things settle down, during that time you should be adjusting your diet to lower your acid intake with should stop your ears from becoming sore from acid damage ever again!

8 COMMENTS

  1. I also have TMJ, so not sure if it’s my acid reflux or TMJ causing ear pain. If it is acid reflux, are you saying that after 2-3 days (or maybe a week or so) of eating clean, that the pepsin will deactivate? So long as there is no acid coming back up to reactivate it?

    • Yes that’s right. If it’s the acid causing the pain, addressing your diet and stopping the acidic and trigger foods will undoubtedly be your best option.

  2. Thank you for this guide David. It feels like me ENT “specialist” has very little knowledge/advice on LPR and it’s great to know that I’m not completely alone through this. So far I’m 2 months into being diagnosed with LPR and keep procrastinating the diet recovery plan along with the PPI pills (Omeprazole 20MG)… Fatty foods and coffee are something that I am having a hard time eliminating from my life, especially coffee. If you could answer any of the questions below I would be extremely grateful:

    1) How long did you have to follow the diet before your symptoms went away?
    2) Did your symptoms ever completely go away (do you feel normal again)?
    3) Once you have healed your throat through the diet plan do you have to maintain this diet for the rest of your life?
    4) What happens if you eat something acidic once your throat has completely healed? Do all the symptoms come back immediately and then you have to start the recovery process over from scratch again?

    Like I said, any of these questions that you could answer would be extremely helpful. It is very difficult to find any straight answers regarding LPR.

    • Hey Brian,
      I personally don’t recommend the PPIs for LPR and I know it can be difficult to stop some foods/drinks but for me it was definitely worth it 🙂
      1&2. I saw improvement within a few days and gradual improvement for another few weeks after. I am not perfect but 8-9/10 these days.
      3. For me currently I can break the diet sometimes and I do but I personally don’t go crazy with it but I can definitely tolerate bad foods I couldn’t have before.
      4. It’s all dependant on each person so that’s difficult to answer. Some people can return to their old diet with any negative effects and others must remain on a strict diet to keep their symptoms away – point being that it’s dependant on each other.

      • Thank you for the great information David. I can’t put into words how helpful all of your guides online and feedback have been. I’ll be purchasing your Wipeout Diet plan book on my next paycheck. It’s easy to find a list of things you should not eat with LPR, but entirely different when trying to find what you should be eating. I look forward to your book easing that process.

        I hope you don’t mind if I reach out with further questions if they arise? You seem to know a lot more about this than my ENT does. Thank you again for everything. These guides have really given me hope and peace of mind.

        • Hey Brian,
          Thank you I am glad you have found the information useful and are going to purchase my diet plan – I am sure it will help 🙂 Sure if you have any questions feel free to send me an email and I will get back to you – david@wipeoutreflux.com

  3. I have LPR & SIBO. Many of the foods for LPR are not good for SIBO Low FodMop diet. I’m confused as to what I should eat. Please help!
    Thank you😊

    • Hey Stephanie,
      I would say if you have both LPR and SIBO it’s probably best to do a combination of the low fodmap diet and the LPR diet like the Wipeout Diet. That is what I would recommend. Only eating the foods that match in both.

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