Beyond The Nose: Flonase’s Surprising Effects On The Ears

A hand holding a bottle of nasal spray

Flonase is a commonly used nasal spray to help people struggling with ear pain, sinus congestion, and more as a result of mucus buildup caused by allergies. Although Flonase may not typically be thought of as a medicine that affects the ear, there is a connection between the two via the sinus cavities. The sinus cavities are connected to the nasal passages and ears and taking Flonase may affect the ear canal, whether it be one or both ears. That being said, is it possible for Flonase to negatively impact the ear canal or eustachian tube? We’ll take a closer look below at how fluid build up can impact tinnitus and whether or not people who use Flonase are at greater risk of making tinnitus worse.

What Is Flonase?

The nasal spray Fluticasone is often used to alleviate allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itchy nose, and runny nose. It may also be referred to as the following brand names: Flonase (common), Flonase Allergy Relief, Flonase Sensimist, ClariSpray, Veramyst, XHANCE. Flonase is a type of nasal steroid that helps to reduce inflammation. Sold in caplets and sprays, Flonase is not designed to be sprayed in the ear canal, but some have suggested it may be able to impact hearing and the ear drum, or it may mask symptoms of an ear infection that goes undiagnosed and untreated, thereby triggering the onset of a tinnitus sound like buzzing or ringing.

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While there are some questions regarding the role of Flonase as one of many ototoxic drugs, people who take Flonase to improve congestion are not linked to any increases in tinnitus risk unlike other ototoxic drugs that do. Whether you began taking the spray prior to a tinnitus diagnosis or after, rest assured that damaged hearing is not currently considered a possible side effect of Flonase and other sinus sprays.

Why Would A Doctor Recommend Nasal Spray For Ear Problems?

Nasal sprays are a common treatment when a person reports symptoms consistent with eustachian tube dysfunction. Our eustachian tubes serve to connect the back of our noses with our middle ear spaces. When the eustachian tubes open, they allow fluid to drain out of the middle ear space to keep it clear. They also allow us to regulate pressure in our middle ears. If you’ve ever felt your ears “pop” while ascending or descending in an airplane, this was likely your eustachian tubes at work!

Hand holding a bottle of nasal spray.

There are times when a person’s eustachian tube (or both tubes) may not work as expected. Tubes may become blocked, which would prevent them from opening appropriately to clear fluid and regulate pressure. This is called “eustachian tube dysfunction.” A person may experience ear pressure, pain, a “popping” sensation, or tinnitus (often described as ringing) in their ears. These symptoms can range from mild to severe. Nasal sprays can help to open up the mucous membranes and allow the spaces in the middle ear to remain clear/open. Flonase and other nasal sprays should be used according to their instructions and you should always consult with a physician before using them.

Taking Flonase in a way incongruent with manufacturer instructions is highly unlikely to lead to any life threatening consequences, as the spray is designed to improve blood flow to the sinus area and ease symptoms associated with both acute sinusitis and allergies. Nevertheless, the spray may not target the underlying cause of hearing loss, or the sounds associated with tinnitus, and may not actually help maintain the health of the ear drums. Before using Flonase as a form of tinnitus intervention or a way to target discomfort in the ears, consider speaking with your medical professional about when symptoms of tinnitus started and how they might be impacted by congestion, illness, or infection targeted by Flonase.

What Is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a hearing condition characterized by phantom sounds, such as ringing, buzzing, or rushing. The causes of tinnitus are varied and range from one person to another. Exposure to loud noises is considered a common culprit, and head and neck injuries leading to sensorineural hearing loss have also been pinpointed as possible instigators. Ear infections, chronic allergies leading to sinus congestion, eustachian dysfunction, and more can cause people to hear ringing, rushing, or buzzing. Other conditions and experiences have been thought of as possible causes of tinnitus. Anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions may put you at increased risk to hear phantom sounds, as can chronic pressure in the sinuses and congenital conditions.

Does Flonase Cause Tinnitus?

Man using nasal spray

Flonase does have some known side effects. The Mayo Clinic indicates that common side effects include bloody nose, chest tightness, cough, fever, headache, muscle aches, pain or tenderness around the eyes and cheekbones, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, trouble breathing, and unusual tiredness or weakness. Fortunately tinnitus is not on the list of common side effects for Flonase, so although it’s not impossible, it would not be an expected side effect.

While Flonase does not cause tinnitus and is not known to make tinnitus worse, people suffering from nasal congestion and other issues with the eustachian tubes, ear damage, or fluid build up may not want to immediately reach for the spray. In normal amounts, Flonase is not known to cause severe issues, but consistently using a spray to target bad allergies may not get to the root of the issue, and there may be more effective interventions to target sinus symptoms and allergies.

Can A Nasal Spray Help Tinnitus?

Nasal sprays are designed to help with issues regarding the sinuses, which can include parts of the ear. Nasal spray can help with mild tinnitus symptoms, because these sprays are used to ease congestion in the ear and sinuses. Fluid in the eustachian tube caused by sinus infections and other sinus-based illnesses can lead to symptoms of tinnitus. The ear has a delicate ecosystem that a spray can help temporarily correct, though these interventions are not considered front-line treatments to cure these issues, and are typically intended for short-term use.

Do Some Nasal Sprays Make Tinnitus Worse?

At present, there is little to no evidence that sprays make tinnitus worse. Although the exact mechanics of and reasons behind the development of tinnitus remain in question and a source of research, sprays for the nose are not currently linked to higher frequencies of tinnitus diagnosis. A doctor may even recommend that a patient use Flonase to soothe allergies and ease sinus pressure, thereby lessening pressure in the ears and possibly improving tinnitus short-term.

Links Between Sinus Symptoms And Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a condition that can involve issues of the outer, middle, and/or inner ear and there are many instigators of the condition. Because parts of the ear and sinus cavities are linked, illness and injury in one area can inform the other. Other causes of tinnitus are not uncommon, but basic sinus infections, ear infections, and similar illnesses can all be linked to ringing in the ear. Drugs to target these issues are common and useful, and may act as something of a preventive measure, but they can also help relieve some of the pressure that leads to phantom sound, and ease pressure in the head enough to lessen anxiety and discomfort and improve tinnitus patients’ ability to hear.

Standard Tinnitus Treatment

Tinnitus is often addressed with a combination of treatments, including sound therapy, hearing aids, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT). By using a multi-pronged approach, many patients are able to experience relief from symptoms, or relief from the negative reactions many people have in response to the onset of tinnitus.

Additional changes, such as limiting noise exposure, can help ease some of the damage sustained by the tiny bones of the ear and small hair cells found in the inner ear, both of which are linked to tinnitus symptoms. From preventative actions and interventions to a more reactive approach, standard treatment options are typically delivered in partnership with an ENT specialist or audiologist, in order to ensure that all bases are covered the most likely root causes of tinnitus and fluid build up are successfully being addressed.

At present, there is no definitive cure for tinnitus. Injuries to the head and neck can be addressed to limit tinnitus symptoms, and drugs can be either added or removed (in the case of ototoxic drugs) to help ease the signs of the condition. Pressure in the sinuses can be treated using Flonase or another spray designed to relieve pressure in the sinuses, and drugs targeting ear infections can help treat any infection-based causes. When all areas relating to the condition are addressed, tinnitus treatment is most effective.


Although some anecdotes may suggest that sprays and other sinus interventions make tinnitus worse, even a few drops of a decongestant can help soothe symptoms of this particular condition and the hearing loss that can accompany an infection. Although a hearing aid and various forms of therapy are considered the frontline treatments for tinnitus symptoms, a nose spray can also prove itself to be a useful aid when tinnitus symptoms have grown worse as a result of nasal pressure or congestion caused by illness or allergies. 

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