There are many reasons why your ears may be blocked or you might develop ear pain, and the majority of the time this won’t be related to COVID-19. It is important to remember that blocked ears and ear pain are common and can be a side effect of many common colds and viruses.
While research in this area is still limited, some healthcare professionals have indicated that it’s possible blocked ears and ear pain can develop as COVID-19 progresses. However, unless these symptoms are also accompanied by other more common coronavirus symptoms (such as a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a change to your sense of smell or taste) it’s unlikely that the cause is coronavirus
We understand that there’s a lot of information out there, so we’ve created this article to answer some common questions and make sure that you’re kept up to date.
Is there a link between ear pain and COVID-19?
Ear pain is not currently recognised by the NHS or the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a common symptom of COVID-19. However, the WHO has identified ‘tinnitus and other hearing issues’ as a symptom of post COVID-19 condition (also known as ‘long-covid).¹ Alongside this, the NHS has included ‘tinnitus and earaches’ as a common long COVID symptom.² Therefore, it’s possible that ear pain may develop as a long-term symptom of coronavirus, although more research is needed to confirm this link.
There are many other more common causes of ear pain or blocked ears, including:
- Teething in children
- Impacted earwax
- Water in the ear
- A sinus or other ear infection
- Common viruses, like a cold or the flu
It’s most important to remember that no authority has directly linked ear pain or blocked ears to COVID-19. So if these are the only symptoms you’re experiencing, it’s unlikely to be an indication that you have the virus now. But, it’s possible that ear pain could develop if you have tested positive in the past. If you have any concerns about your ear health, book a hearing test with your audiologist or speak to your GP to get them checked out.
Are blocked ears a symptom of COVID-19?
Blocked ears are not currently identified as a common symptom of COVID-19 by the NHS, but some ‘hearing issues’ have been identified as a symptom of long COVID by the WHO.¹ Because blocked ears aren’t mentioned specifically, if this is the only symptom you are experiencing — it’s unlikely that you have COVID-19.
The sensation of blocked ears can be caused by a number of things. One common cause is impacted earwax. If you are also having difficulty hearing or find your ears are itchy, then you may have a build-up of earwax. Learn more about impacted earwax here and find out whether you need to book an earwax removal appointment.
I have a sore throat and ear pain on one side, could this be a sign of COVID-19?
Unless your sore throat and ear pain on one side are experienced alongside a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a change to your sense of smell or taste, it is unlikely that you have developed COVID-19. According to the NHS, a sore throat and ear pain are more generally indications of illnesses such as tonsillitis and quinsy.³ If you are concerned about ear pain or have noticed a change to your hearing, it’s best to speak to your GP, ring NHS 111 for immediate advice, or book an appointment with your audiologist.
Can COVID-19 cause itchy ears?
Itchy ears can be caused by many things —like an ear infection, a cold or flu, or earwax build-up — but there is currently no research to indicate that this is a symptom of COVID-19. However, as itchy ears can be caused by common sicknesses like the cold or flu, it is not entirely unlikely that people may be experiencing it alongside other COVID symptoms.
It’s quite common to have itchy ears once in a while, and generally isn’t anything to worry about. To find out more information about itchy ears and the recommended treatments, visit our page.
What to do if you are experiencing blocked ears or ear pain
If you are suffering from ear pain and earache or blocked ears, this usually isn’t anything to worry about, and will rarely be an indication that you have COVID-19. Treatment will depend on the cause, which is why we recommend visiting your GP or audiologist for a proper diagnosis and advice on how to treat it. Visit our earaches, ear popping, impacted earwax and fluid in the ear pages to learn more.
Whatever the cause, we discourage attempting to fix the ear yourself, and advise that nothing smaller than an elbow is inserted into the ear — unless done by a healthcare professional — since this can cause damage to your ear canal and make the problem worse.
Are ears popping a sign of COVID-19?
Ear popping is not currently recognised as a symptom of COVID-19 by the NHS or the WHO. Popping ears are the result of pressure within the ear, which is most commonly caused by a condition called Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD). This is the inflammation of the eustachian tube which can lead to a build-up of mucus or fluid, and can be the result of something as simple as a common cold or the flu. To find out more information on ears popping and ETD, read out dedicated pages.
If your symptoms persist, we recommend that you speak to your GP or book a hearing test to get your symptoms checked.
Find expert information and advice on Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), its causes and treatment, from Specsavers' audiologists.
Visit our hearing loss information hub. Home to everything you need to know about the symptoms, causes and treatments for hearing loss.
You might not have thought much about it, but earwax is pretty important for our ear health. Find out all about it here.