Why Do Your Ears Hurt When Eating Spicy Food?

Your ears move alongside your mouth while you eat or speak, showing a significant connection between your mouth/throat and ears. Sometimes, a stinging, tingling sensation often described as painful is linked to eating spicy foods. However, are there any chances that what affects your mouth will most likely affect your ears, including spicy food consumption? 

Your ears hurt when eating spicy foods because of an excessive buildup of fluid in the tubular connection between your middle and outer ear (eustachian tube) resulting from your body’s physiological reaction to counteract the false alarm that it is on fire. As a result, the fluid buildup upsets the balance in your ear, causing you pain.  

Some people feel a significant amount of pain in their ears when they eat spicy foods, which elicits an exciting point of inquiry. Could it be that the hurt in your ears when eating spicy food is proof that the ears possess a sense of taste? Let’s find out all about the weird relationship between food, taste, and the ears in this article! 

How Consuming Spicy Foods Affects Your Ears

No matter how convincing the pains in your ears seem when you eat spicy foods, your ears do not possess a sense of taste. Although the extra spice in your dishes makes your food more exciting to consume, it can have some unsavory effects, particularly on your five senses. As a result, your ears are a significant victim of the fiery powers of spicy foods. 

Spicy food consumption principally affects the mouth and throat because of their sense of taste and the presence of pain and heat receptors in your mouth. In contrast, your ears take a significant hit when you consume spicy foods because of the fluid-induced imbalance it creates. 

Your ears are the organs responsible for maintaining balance and stability for the whole body, and they are the reason you can stand and walk without feeling like the world is tumbling upside down. 

However, when you consume spicy foods, that balance and stability in your ears, maintained by your middle ears, is distorted, throwing you into temporary episodes of confusion. 

Here is what we mean!

Spicy foods are rich in capsaicin, the phytochemical that gives peppers their hotness. So, when the capsaicin in spicy foods contacts your mouth, they interact with the heat-releasing receptors, TRPV1, and cause you pain. Consequently, your body is tricked into feeling on fire and springs into action to counteract the anomaly or stressful situation. 

As a result, your body attempts to compensate for the pepper-induced discomfort in the following ways:

  • By producing endorphins to drown the pain and make you feel calmer.
  • By stimulating the hyperproduction of body fluids, including sweat, saliva, and mucus, to dilute the capsaicin or protect the inner linings of mucus membranes.
  • By initiating sensitivity responses like sneezing, coughing, and hyperventilation to expel the irritants.

Fun Fact: In severe cases, your sensitivity responses can progress to allergic reactions as hypersensitivity. 

Spicy foods act as a stimulant because of their heat, causing your blood vessels to dilate and increase overall body temperature. As a result, your heart rate elevates, and more blood pumps through your veins, straight to your brain. 

The sudden rush of blood shifts the ear pressure leading to the itchy or painful feeling you get. It can lead to temporary deafness for some people, lasting for about two to five minutes. If the deafness lasts longer than a few minutes, you should consult your ear doctor.

Additionally, spicy foods cause increased sweat production in the ears and other fluids like mucus that can clog the eustachian tube of the middle ears. The fluid-filled middle ear creates a pressure imbalance which your brain interprets as pain. 

Moreover, capsaicin in spicy foods mildly irritates human cells, especially mucus membranes lining the mouth, throat, eyes, stomach, and inner ears, causing a burning sensation that your brain via nerve endings interprets as pain. 

As a result, your ears tend to hurt when you eat spicy foods. However, this feeling does not happen to everyone and depends on individual differences.  

Fun Fact: Sneezing, coughing, wheezing, and fever are not essentially adverse reactions. They are your body’s defense mechanism for expelling and preventing irritants like dust, pollen, or other undesirable substances from lodging within you.  

How To Prevent Your Ears From Burning When Eating Spicy Foods

The general suggestion for preventing your ears from burning when eating spicy foods would be to advise that you consume spicy foods in moderation. However, if you have a low spice tolerance, there are chances that the slightest spiciness of your food would hurt your ears nonetheless. 

Therefore, you should include the antidote to capsaicin dairy in your diet. Dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese, etc., contain the milk protein, casein. Casein actively binds to capsaicin and mops them off your receptors as you swallow. Capsaicin also dissolves in alcohol and butter, but you may still feel the burn slightly. 

Alternatively, you can ensure that you are consuming enough ear-benefiting foods. 

Below is a table summarizing some food types that restore your auditory functions and make your hearing better and their corresponding nutrients. 

Ear-Friendly FoodsCorresponding Nutrients
Beans and leafy green vegetablesFolate
Avocado/dark chocolate/ whole grainsMagnesium
Nuts and seedsZinc
Bananas/melons/orangesPotassium
Flaxseed/walnuts/fishOmega-3s

Are All Pains in the Ear Due to Spicy Food Consumption?

Not all ear pains are due to the consumption of spicy foods. Essentially, some ear pains are due to allergies and ear infections, particularly in children. Hypersensitive individuals and children can get ear issues due to allergies, especially during allergy season and changes in weather conditions. 

The reason is that during these times of the year, the air is filled with pollen from grasses, flowers, and dust particles. Inhalation of these allergens can trigger an active histamine response causing your body to try to counteract the reaction. 

As a result, your body produces excess mucus to trap the allergens, thus increasing the fluid buildup in your middle ear conduit, the eustachian tube. Excessive fluid accumulation in the middle ears can lead to an auditory infection known as otitis media (infection and inflammation of the middle ear). 

Both allergies and infections that cause ear pains are interlinked, as one cannot happen without the other.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do My Ears Hurt After Eating Certain Types of Foods?

Your ears can hurt after eating certain foods if you have any food allergies. Also, these foods can trigger the excessive production of mucus and fluids, which can clog your middle ear, causing you a significant degree of hurt after eating them.

What Specific Allergies Can Affect the Ears?

Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, affects the ears, especially during allergy season. Essentially, during seasonal changes, the air is filled with mold spores and tree or grass pollen, triggering your allergies. Chronic exposures to these allergens can result in chronic ear problems.

What Causes My Ears To Ache?

Pains in the ears are due to a cold, allergies, or a sinus infection blocking the passages in the middle section. Fluid buildup in the middle ear leads to ear infections, for which your doctor will prescribe some antibiotics to kill the bacteria responsible.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know that getting some extra spice in your diet can lead to ear issues, you are better off consuming spicy foods in moderation. However, because the ears are very sensitive, you should report any inconsistencies you observe to your healthcare provider as not all ear pains are due to spicy food consumption. Hopefully, this piece gives you a great start!  

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Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

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