Several health conditions can cause dizziness, ringing in your ears, and pain or pressure in your head, some of which may be serious. If you experience symptoms that are severe or persistent, it’s important to consult a doctor.
Dizziness and ringing in the ears that interfere with your daily activities are also known by the medical terms vertigo and tinnitus. These symptoms can make it hard to work, relax, and even sleep. Pain and pressure in your head or sinuses can have the same effects.
These symptoms can sometimes be signs of minor issues, such as sinus infections or headaches. But when these symptoms are severe or won’t go away, they may need immediate medical attention.
Read on to learn 12 possible causes of ringing in your ears, dizziness, and pressure in your head, and what you can do about them.
When to get help
Get immediate help for the following signs, as they may indicate a medical emergency:
- feeling faint or losing consciousness
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- sudden change in vision or hearing
- bloody nose
- dizziness that worsens over time or persists for several hours
- headache that lasts for more than a day and doesn’t respond to over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers
- tingling or numbness in your limbs, especially on only one side
- weakness in one side of your face or body
- slurred speech
- loss of vision in one eye
- unable to stand or walk
Inflammation of your sinuses caused by infection is commonly known as sinusitis.
Short-lived sinusitis cases are often caused by viral infections, like the common cold. Chronic sinusitis may be the result of a bacterial infection.
The main symptoms of sinusitis are:
- sinus pressure
- thick, colored drainage from your nose
You can treat a minor case of sinusitis at home with rest, fluids, and OTC pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
If your sinus infection persists, you may need to take antibiotics to treat it.
In some rare cases, chronic sinusitis results from polyps in the sinuses. Your doctor may recommend surgery to remove them.
Common headache triggers include:
- poor posture
- weather or changes in air pressure
- drinking alcohol
- bright or strong lights
The type of pain you’re experiencing can often tell you what type of headache you have. For example, feeling like a tight band is stretched around your head might mean you have a tension headache. Tension headaches are often caused by pressure changes or poor posture.
Rest and OTC pain relievers can often help with minor headache symptoms. You can also try applying a cold compress across your forehead or the back of your neck.
Other treatments may include:
- managing stress
- avoiding headache triggers, such as alcohol or flashing lights
Some prescription medications may help prevent or ease headaches, including:
Tinnitus can seem worse at night when you’re trying to sleep.
Distracting noises, including low-volume music or a fan, can sometimes make tinnitus feel more manageable.
Stress management and exercise may help, too.
Biofeedback and antidepressant drugs may help ease tinnitus symptoms.
Hearing aids can also help if you’re having trouble with conversations and everyday sounds because of tinnitus.
Vertigo is a sense of dizziness that can feel like you or your surroundings are spinning.
Vertigo is more of a symptom than its own condition. But an inner ear disorder called benign positional vertigo (BPV) can bring on dizziness, nausea, and related symptoms.
If you’re experiencing vertigo, you can try resting or marching in place until the sensation goes away.
If BPV is the problem, you can learn exercises that are meant to restore balance within the ear. Talk with a medical professional about trying this therapy. They might teach you a head exercise to move the small crystals of calcium carbonate in your ear that cause BPV.
Medications such as antihistamines and beta-blockers can help if your symptoms are severe.
Vestibular migraine is a type of migraine that doesn’t necessarily cause a headache but can cause symptoms such as vertigo and lightheadedness.
You won’t always know what causes vestibular migraine, but you can learn some of its common triggers. These include:
- certain foods and beverages, like chocolate, red wine, and coffee
Stay hydrated and get enough sleep to help lower your risk of vestibular migraine episodes. Migraine triggers vary from person to person, so learning to identify and avoid your own triggers can provide further relief.
Prescription drugs that treat migraine may also help reduce vestibular migraine symptoms, such as:
- anti-seizure drugs
- calcium channel blockers
- CGRP antagonists
Another condition that causes both vertigo and tinnitus is Meniere’s disease. According to the
Rest and stress management can help with the symptoms of Meniere’s disease. You can also try making changes to your diet to limit your salt and sugar intake, and prevent fluid buildup.
Motion sickness and anti-nausea medications can help. You might also benefit from diuretics that reduce fluid levels in your body.
Your symptoms might also be caused by Grave’s disease, an autoimmune disease that affects your thyroid gland. Grave’s disease can trigger feelings of pressure behind your eyes.
Antithyroid drugs and radioactive iodine therapy may help reduce your symptoms.
You can get a concussion after a blow to the head, or after whiplash, an injury that causes your head to move back and forth unusually fast. A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that requires medical attention.
A doctor’s evaluation is critical if you think you might have a concussion.
During a concussion, rest and OTC pain relievers may help relieve the initial pain and disorientation. After a concussion, stay in a dark, quiet place, and avoid stimulation from lights and sounds.
The only way to treat a concussion is to rest and avoid contact sports and other activities that may threaten the head. Your doctor will still want to monitor you for signs of bleeding or swelling while you recover. These signs might mean you need treatment for a more serious injury.
The thought of a tumor can be frightening, but not all tumors are cancerous.
For example, an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor in the brain. While usually harmless, an acoustic neuroma can grow and put pressure on important nerves.
Treatment isn’t always necessary, but radiation can sometimes help to shrink the tumor. This type of targeted radiation is called stereotactic radiosurgery.
Regular monitoring with an MRI scan is also important. This will make sure that the tumor doesn’t grow to a large size that can disrupt nerve activity and brain function.
An ischemic stroke happens when a blood vessel supplying blood to brain tissue is blocked or the arteries supplying blood narrow significantly.
An ischemic stroke is a medical emergency. Seek treatment right away if you believe you’re having the symptoms of this kind of stroke, such as:
- blindness in one eye
- double vision
- feeling weak or paralyzed in one or more of your arms and legs
- feeling confused
- losing coordination
- face drooping on one side
During an ischemic stroke, tissue plasminogen activators are given to dissolve blood clots. Surgical devices also exist that can break up clots and restore healthy blood flow.
General treatment approaches to prevent ischemic stroke include:
- oral blood thinners, such as aspirin
- blood pressure control
- lowering cholesterol
- certain lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking, losing weight, and increasing physical activity
An aneurysm is sometimes the result of high blood pressure. An aneurysm is much more dangerous than an ischemic stroke.
This condition must be treated as a medical emergency.
Medications to reduce blood pressure and slow bleeding may help.
In severe cases, you may need surgery to repair the damaged artery.
That said, regular brain scans are critical to detect brain tumors early on. This is especially true if you have a family history of brain cancer or are undergoing treatment for a cancer that may have spread to your brain.
Talk with a doctor if you have any concerns.
Surgery is the most common treatment for brain cancer. If the tumor cannot be safely removed surgically, chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be necessary.
COVID-19 is a rare and unlikely cause of your symptoms. But this is possible, especially if you live in an area with major COVID-19 outbreaks and are not vaccinated.
A 2020 study in the
- on both sides of the head
- resistant to OTC pain relievers
- associated with loss of taste or smell
- associated with digestive symptoms
Think you have COVID-19? Get tested!
If you suspect that you may have COVID-19 — especially if you are unvaccinated — make a plan to get tested by your third day of experiencing symptoms. Take appropriate steps, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, and isolating yourself for at least 10 to 14 days.
Pay close attention to the signals your body sends you, especially when you’re feeling dizzy or lightheaded, or feeling pain or pressure in your head.
These symptoms are often signals of conditions that could affect your brain function. Discuss them with a doctor if they happen often or continuously throughout the day or week.
If you can’t see a primary care physician, go to the emergency room or an urgent care center for severe symptoms or symptoms that won’t go away.