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.
Acid Reflux Ear Pain – Simply Explained
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 throat problems.
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 problems 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 again.
In addition to stopping the acid reflux you may want to have your doctor check your ears. If you have an infection you will need to take an antibiotic to help clear that up.
If you do not have an infection your ear may simply have too much wax or dryness etc. that is causing irritation. If you have too much wax or dryness then using olive oil and putting in the ear twice daily will help soften the wax. If it’s just minor dryness in the ear then applying olive oil 2-3 times per week is enough to keep the ears moist. If it’s a big wax buildup then you may need to do it for 1 week before having the ears cleaned.
If you have a wax buildup it may be good to get the ears sucked. One option to help clear this is by syringing the ears with water. But the best option is to have the ears sucked. Tell your doctor you want them sucked instead which is generally a better option for cleaning blocked ears.
The acid reflux may cause more irritation in the ears and inflammation but once you have the acid reflux under better control along with our ear cleaning advice this should greatly lower any chances of ear pain or problems caused by acid reflux.
If you have more questions about treating ear pain or anything acid reflux related book a private consultation here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Acid Reflux Affect Your Hearing?
Yes, acid reflux can affect your hearing. How this happens is acid refluxes from the stomach and into the throat – this is where it can enter the tube that connects the throat and ears called the eustachian tube. The acid can then potentially enter the ear, and this is where problems can arise.
Can Acid Reflux Cause Sinus and Ear Problems?
Yes, acid reflux can cause problems with the sinuses and ears. This is somewhat common for people with Laryngopharyngeal Reflux. The acid refluxes up from the stomach where it can enter the throat and sinuses. This can inflame the throat and sinuses which can cause problems with blocked sinuses, breathing etc. There is a tube that connects the throat to the inner ears called the eustachian tube. This is how the acid can flow into the ear where it can cause problems.
What are the Symptoms of Silent Reflux?
Laryngopharyngeal Reflux which is sometimes called silent reflux is where acid refluxes up and into the throat where problems arise. Some of the most common symptoms are throat pain, throat burning, chronic cough, sinus issues, chronic mucus, ear problems and more. Read more about the symptoms here – silent reflux symptoms.
A Few More Talking Points –
Acid Reflux Jaw Ear Pain – Is it Related?
Sometimes the pain felt in your ear can also feel like jaw pain because of the location. In cases where it’s caused by acid reflux this would most likely be ear pain caused by the acid refluxing up and into the ears not actually jaw pain.
LPR Ear Pain One Side – One Side or Both?
More often than not when someone with LPR or silent reflux has problems with their ears it’s usually focused on only one side. This is much more common than both ears being affected at the same time though it is still possible both could be.
Heartburn and Earache Can be a Sign Of –
Well the heartburn is a sign of acid reflux or even GERD. Whereas the earache is sign of acid reflux as well, more specifically a kind of acid reflux called Laryngopharyngeal Reflux.
29 thoughts on “Acid Reflux & Ear Pain – Are They Related?”
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.
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.
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.
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org
I have bad ear congestion. It feels like hard clogged and when I swallow it’s difficult. I had a bad case of acid reflux. What can I do to try and break that up?
I would suggest 1-2 drops of olive oil into the ear. This can soften any wax and general dryness of the ear. You can do it for about 1 week, 2 times per day. If you think it’s too much wax in your ear it may be worth to consider to syringe it with water to help clear it also.
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!
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.
Hi sir I have gerd from two and half years(due to low stomach acid) and recently suffering from ear burning and mouth burning I think it may be lpr.pls suggest me Indian diet to become gerd and lpr free
Hi Devi, I recommend my Wipeout diet I created specifically for people with LPR & GERD. It allows for indian style meals with certain spices that are allowed and won’t worsen acid reflux.
Hello, would the ear pain and jaw pain on one side from the acid also cause a lymph node to swell?
Hi Nicole, I am not certain about that. I would guess that perhaps it could affect some of them but I am not sure.
Hi Nicole. We’re these your symptoms? Did you ever get a diagnosis and remedy? I’m experiencing the same thing
Hi David, iv been suffering for about 6 weeks with excessive phlegm and which has now turned into a sore throat with a red rash. I also have dull ear and jaw ache under my chin and often feel lightheaded and very fatigued. My gp thinks it’s acid reflux and has suggested gaviscon for a few weeks. Do you think these symptoms match with Gerd/acid reflux?
Hey Liza, I would suggest you take my RSI test here. Depending on what you score will be a great indication if you have LPR. For people with GERD of course heartburn and indigestion are the most common symptoms.
Thank you so much for writing this. I had my gallbladder removed in 2018 and now I experience ear burning and pain, migraines, sinuses are raw from the bile reflux coming up. I want to try benonite clay for my issues but I’m scared I will react, as I react to so many medications. Diet helped you? Seems like no matter what I eat I have symptoms. Even my upper back feels like icy hot but only the hot part is on my back at times. Severe fatigue after I eat fatty foods, even low fat.
Hey Calia. Yes diet is what I would suggest to you like my Wipeout Diet I created. Also taking Gaviscon or a similar product that includes sodium alginate (the higher the dose of that the better)
I have had LPR for 3 years this May. I had an upper respiratory infection and took two rounds of antibiotics. I have seen all of the top specialists in NYC, but I still have no relief. I have followed a mostly AWD, acid watcher’s diet, for two and a half years, been on PPIs, Gaviscon, etc… I went on Dr Koufman’s induction diet twice, but I didn’t notice a difference. She prescribed Gabapentin and Amitriptyline, small doses, which takes the edge off, but doesn’t get rid of.
I feel like I chronically have mucus sitting in the back of my throat, not a lump. I also have a strangling sensation. I have never had a cough, although when this started, I felt like I had air hunger. I am thin and athletic. Lifting weights exacerbates my symptoms.
I have left sided ear and jaw pain and pain/tingling that starts in my lower jaw and radiates across the left side of my face. I have a gurgling/bubbling sensation after I swallow. Did you ever have this?
I saw a neurologist who says that the virus affected my vagus nerve, which affected by LES, and also cranial nerves, which is causing the tingling in my face and tongue.
I do drink a few sips of iced cold brew in the morning, but Dr. Aviv and Dr. Koufman said this was fine.
Is your diet different than theirs? (No onions, garlinc, alcohol, fruits, no dairy, no tomatoes, no vinegar, etc…)
I have not tried melatonin. I have tried a probiotic, but didn’t take consistently.
Do you have any advice?
I personally didn’t have the gurgling sensation as you mentioned though I have heard others who also reported a similar sensation as that.
I personally would avoid the coffee, even though I know cold brew is less acidic it still could be too acidic and also loosening the LES too.
Of course there is some overlap with my diet as you might expect but of course their are important differences worth mentioning as well that I have learned from my experience and research and feedback from others who follow the diet as well.
My advice is the diet thing first. You still could be making mistakes even small ones which could be preventing healing. I would recommend my diet of course and sending me a typical day what you eat etc via email and maybe I can offer some suggestions and advice.
Thank you. Could I please have your email to send you what I typically eat? It really boring….
I always have kashi original high protein/fiber cereal no sugar with almond milk and half a banana for breakfast. I also drink a half a cup of iced cold brew mixed with almond milk.
For lunch, I eat arugula with two egg whites, a little olive oil, avocado and a handful of pecans. I will also eat a little watermelon or cantaloupe.
Dinner varies, but typically egg whites, avocado with a salad. Similar to my lunch. Baked chicken or fish and a vegetable. I have been eating this way for a month and have no relief from the mucus sensation. It has been there non stop for 3 years. I also have a dentyne sensation on the left side of my mouth. I am wondering if it is BMS.
I will have either broiled or roasted broccoli, zucchini, carrots, asparagus, fennel, etc… for dinner. All drizzled with a little olive oil. I have eliminated dairy, onions, garlic, citrus, most fruit an alcohol. How long does it take to really go away. The mucus, tightness and air hunger make me crazy. Help!
I wouldn’t eat that cereal, its processed and has many bad ingredients. I wouldn’t suggest the coffee at least when starting out with the diet. The other things you mentioned are all fine though. With the right treatment routine most people can see an improvement within 3 months time.
Can you tell me if you recommend or prefer Gaviscon Advanced (UK) liquid or tablet form?
I prefer the liquid form. It seems to work better and is easier to take in my opinion.
I have been diagnosed with GERD last year by the gastro doc, when my reflux kicked in high gear last month I went to an ENT because it was so different. My throat was raw. He said it was LPR. Gave me 40mg of pantoprozole and said I’ll see you in 6-8 weeks. Tried it for several days and knocked to dosage down to 20mg because of the side effects. It has been several weeks and I haven’t noticed much healing. Every once in a while my ears feel “funny”, my throat usually burns, my tongue burns, and sometimes I feel a chest burn.
If this sounds like a good fit for your program – please respond accordingly and I’ll be anxious to start.
It definitely sounds like LPR to me. Pantoprazole is a PPI as you may know, and PPIs have been shown to not be effective for treating LPR. I’m quite sure my plan would be helpful for you. I even offer a private consultation which I would recommend to get the best plan of action for your treatment, click here for that.
Acid reflux doesn’t cause permanent damage to your hearing ?
I have heard some people say it does though there isn’t a lot of research on this area as of right now.