Sometimes it’s hard to know whether you are experiencing an ear infection or a sinus infection because of the similarities in symptoms. Both diagnoses involve significant pressure or pain in the head/neck area and both infections may trigger a fever response in your body.

So, why is it important to know whether you’re suffering from a sinus infection or an ear infection? Because the treatment option selected will only be effective if you have the right diagnosis.

Here’s how to decide whether you’re experiencing a sinus infection or an ear infection and how your ear, nose, and throat doctor can help along the way.

Symptoms of an Ear Infection

The primary symptoms of an ear infection include acute ear pain and hearing loss. You will have the sensation that your hearing is muffled or you're experiencing hearing loss and you may experience referred pain in your throat or fluid in the middle ear.

When you’re experiencing an ear infection, you may not necessarily see a change in color in or outside your ears.

Symptoms of a Sinus Infection

Meanwhile, the primary symptoms of a sinus infection or sinusitis include a feeling of fullness in the ear because of the obstruction in your sinus area, but not hearing loss.

You also may experience nasal congestion (a stuffy nose), facial pain, and an overall sense of pressure in your face and forehead. In some cases, you may even experience pain in your upper teeth.

Symptoms of sinusitis may also resemble those of allergies or asthma. Those who suffer from allergy and asthma symptoms may also be especially susceptible to sinus infections, so it's important to get an assessment from your ENT.

How to Treat an Ear Infection

For mild to moderate ear infection pain, your doctor may decide to prescribe pain medication, ear drops and/or antibiotics to clear out the infection. For serious ear pain, your doctor may decide to lance your eardrum to let the infection drain out before the healing process begins.

Acute otitis media (an ear infection) typically requires treatment from a physician.

How to Treat a Sinus Infection

In the case of sinus infections (acute sinusitis), pain medication is rarely prescribed. Patients will be encouraged to try a sinus rinse using a Neti Pot before moving on to more serious interventions.

In cases of acute sinusitis, patients may also experience cold-like symptoms. If these symptoms don’t get better or appear to get worse after 5-7 days, your doctor may decide to treat the sinus infection with antibiotics along with nasal decongestant, nasal sprays, and saline solution.

In severe cases of sinus infections, your doctor may decide to prescribe steroids. For those who experience chronic sinusitis, it's recommended to seek care from an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist.

There’s only one thing worse than suffering from a sinus infection or an ear infection: suffering from both at the same time. Unfortunately, anything that causes nasal swelling can cause swelling of the middle ear space because the nose is congested. So cases in which you have a sinus infection and ear infection at the same time can be especially painful.

When it comes to different infections in the ear, nose, and throat, it’s easy to get your wires crossed and find that you aren’t quite sure what’s going on in your body.

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of an ear infection or sinus infection, reach out today to set up an appointment with Virginia ENT today.