When you have a bad cold or the flu, in addition to severe nasal congestion you can also experience “ear flutter,” a fluttering, beating or drumming sensation in one or both of your ear drums. You may also feel pressure in your ears, and everything around you may sound “underwater.”
When you have a bad cold or allergies, your sinus passages fill up, causing sinus congestion. This congestion can also affect your ears, in particular your eustachian tubes, according to a Hearing Loss News & Reviews article on ear infections.
Eustachian tubes are small tubular passageways that connect the inner part of your ear to your sinuses and upper throat. They help equalise air pressure in your ears—via swallowing, yawning and chewing—and allow any fluid build-up behind your ear drum to drain naturally into the sinus passages.
One result of congestion is that air pressure builds up and fluids cannot drain, leading to eustachian tube dysfunction, a condition where the ear canals do not work properly. According to the Sinus Infection Help website, sinus congestion and infection contribute to eustachian tube dysfunction.
Symptoms of eustachian tube dysfunction, according to Sinus Infection Help, include ear flutter (or a beating or drumming sound in your ears), pressure or pain or fullness in the ear, tinnitus or a ringing sensation and dizziness. Symptoms and pressure are not relieved by swallowing, yawning or chewing.
If you experience ear flutter along with nasal congestion, consult an otolaryngologist (or ear, nose and throat specialist) immediately. Do not try to treat ear problems yourself, as you run the risk of infection and damage to your ear and hearing.