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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Do Mastoids Cause Headaches?

03/17/2010

Question:

I have been seeing an ENT for 17 months for fluid in the ear. The ENT has drained my ear twice and also put tubes in 3 times. The tubes fall out within 2-3 months. I am 38 years old. Recently it has been decided that I should have a MRI done to determine the root cause of the problem. I have been advised that the MRI showed the Mastoids enlarged. I have had frequent dizzy spells and constant headaches. Would these be caused by issues with my Mastoids? I do have a follow-up appointment with my ENT but want to know if I should be concerned that I should be seen sooner than later given the headaches are constant.

Answer:

There are several issues intermixed in your question/history below. Mastoid fluid, headaches and dizziness are extremely difficult to tie into one single problem. Ear aches or muffled hearing are more typical patient complaints when people have persistent ear fluid. Headaches are a very atypical complaint in patients with middle ear/mastoid fluid. Similarly, dizziness is also a rare complaint from people who have ear fluid issues.

Its definitely worth continuing your evaluation, especially since your headaches persist. However, its important to avoid "tunnel-vision" and trying to explain everything with one simple answer. Unfortunately, people are complex and sometimes multiple unrelated problems can occur at the same time and produce a variety of different symptoms.

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Response by:

Daniel   Choo, MD Daniel Choo, MD
Associate Professor and Director, Division of Otology/Neurotology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati