Can Holding In A Sneeze Cause Hearing Loss?

We’ve all heard the stories about holding in a sneeze. It’s bad for you, it can send you to the hospital, etc. But have you heard the one where it could also cause hearing loss?

Do these stories have any truth to them? Or are they just cautionary tales?

A recent article in Business Insider says that yes, physically preventing a sneeze is bad and can even cause irreparable damage. After holding in a sneeze a man showed up at an ER. Upon examination, doctors realized he had created a hole deep inside his throat.

So harm, yes. How about hearing loss? Turns out, also yes.

Howstuffworks.com has a good explanation to why this can happen.

“When you block the air’s escape route by pinching your nose or mouth during a sneeze, it forces the air into your ears. This pressurized air will travel back through the ears’ Eustachian tubes and into the middle ear, where it could cause damage, such as a ruptured eardrum.”

CNN is even on the case. They quote doctors who all agree that harm from holding in a sneeze is rare, but also that it’s a chance not worth taking. If you don’t have tissues, try sneezing into the crook of your arm.

A doctor in the first article we linked sums it up best:

“‘A sneeze is designed to expel foreign particles and irritants from your airway, particularly your nasal cavity, and is a protective reflex…let it fly!’”