A clogged ear or blocked ear is irritating and inconvenient but nothing serious.
We hear muffled sounds and find it difficult and feel uncomfortable. In most cases, this blocked or clogged ear feeling is temporary and is caused by something as simple as earwax accumulation, ear infection, or a common cold.
Read to know the cause of clogged ear feeling and the home remedies.
Why Does My Ear Feel Clogged?
Clogged ears also being referred to as blocked ears or plugged ears or even stuffed ears.
There are various causes of blocked ears or clogged ears, in some cases, the clogged ear clears up on its own over a few hours or a day.
Causes Of Blocked Ears
Given below are the 12 common causes of blocked ears or clogged ears.
1. Blocked Ear due to water
It is very common and can happen after a shower or after swimming is a common complaint.
2. Clogged Ears due to Cold
Clogged ears from cold are very common, and so is usually after blowing nose. Severe cold results in eustachian tube blockage.
3. Middle Ear Infections or Otitis Media
The middle ear infection causes eardrum congestion or swelling, or there is fluid collected behind the eardrum, giving an ear-clogged feeling.
4. Outer ear infection (Otitis Externa or Swimmer’s Ear)
Swimmer’s ear is an outer ear infection due to water getting accumulated in the ear canal which promotes bacterial growth resulting in blocked/clogged ears.
5. Ear Blocked from the sinus infection
Issues such as common colds, allergies, and sinus infections can lead to ear congestion.
6. Earwax impaction
Hardened earwax can block the ear canal and the ear feels clogged.
7. Higher Altitude or Barotrauma (Airplane Ear)
Many people’s ears complain their ears are clogged after a flight. Generally, the pressure in the middle ear and the pressure outside are more or less equal. In case the middle ear pressure is not equal, we get a feeling of plugged ears.
8. Eustachian Tube blockage
Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD) or Eustachian tube blockage is very common and gives a feeling of fullness in the ears or a clogged ear feeling.
9. Ears Are Clogged from Allergies
Some seasonal allergies due to the increased pressure or fluid build-up in the ear lead to a clogged ear feeling.
10. Clogged Ear Feeling Due to Acoustic Neuroma
Acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor growing on the nerves leading from the inner ear to the brain. The tumor exerts pressure and might give a feeling of fullness in the ears, sometimes the feeling is similar to water-blocked ear.
11. Clogged Ear Feeling Due to Anxiety
Many people get a clogged ear feeling if they are anxious or stressed. The ear is very sensitive and detects minor changes in pressure. The heart rate increases due to anxiety and the body releases stress hormones that increase the blood pressure and make the ear feel stuffy.
12. Clogged Ears Due to Swollen Lymph Nodes
Swollen lymph nodes and clogged ears are possible if one is suffering from an ear infection, allergies, or even a common cold. The lymph nodes in front or behind the ear swell up resulting in a clogged ear feeling and at times earache.
Home Remedies for Blocked Ears
Try out the blocked ears remedy mentioned below for immediate relief–
1) Passive techniques:
Swallowing, yawning, or chewing gum can open up the blocked Eustachian tubes for some relief.
2) Valsalva maneuver
It can be used if the clogged ear feeling is due to high altitude or if the ear gets clogged after a flight. It is NOT a remedy for a water-clogged ear.
Close both nostrils and then try to blow out while keeping your lips closed. The idea is to increase the pressure in the middle ear to clear the clogged ear.
Caution: Do not blow too hard, it may cause problems with the eardrum. This technique is NOT advisable for people with high blood pressure, or who are at high risk for a stroke, or heart attack, or who have a heart rhythm problem known as arrhythmia.
3) Steam Inhalation
Steam inhalation for blocked ears helps in clearing congestion in case of infection and is an effective blocked eustachian tube treatment.
Adding a few drops of natural oil (Eucalyptus oil, Lavender oil, Tea tree oil) in warm water and inhaling the steam is more effective in clearing clogged ears.
4) Warm saline gargles and drink warm liquids.
This will help in clearing the clogged eustachian tube.
5) A warm compression
It is an effective blocked ears remedy.
6) Hydrogen Peroxide drops
If the ear is blocked due to wax, the use of hydrogen peroxide drops can unclog them.
7) Nasal decongestant
It is for the clogged eustachian tube.
When Should You See a Doctor?
In many instances, it is best to see an ENT specialist to unclog the ears.
Sometimes a person can unintentionally cause further harm and damage with at-home methods.
In case there is no relief in the clogged ear feeling, or any one of the following symptoms occurs, it is advisable to consult a doctor —
1) Fever more than 101° F
2) No relief from an earache or is worsening
3) Purulent or blood-tinged Ear discharge
5) Reduced hearing or a ringing sound in the ear
TREATMENT OF CLOGGED EARS (based on the cause) –
1) Wax Softening Eardrops
Putting 2-3 drops in the ear may help soften the wax so it can be removed more easily.
2) Syringing or Irrigation of Ear
If the earwax is hard and over-the-counter earwax softeners do not work, the doctor will inject water under high pressure to dislodge the hard earwax and remove it.
3) Clogged Ears due to Allergies
If your ears are clogged from allergies, the doctor will prescribe antihistamines.
4) Ear Ventilation Tubes (Grommet insertion)
In extreme cases, the doctor may advise a simple surgical procedure to reduce pain and pressure by inserting ear ventilation tubes or pressure equalization tubes.
The small tube placed in the eardrum helps to drain the accumulated fluid behind the eardrum and equalize the pressure between the middle ear and the outside.
This gives immediate relief in the feeling of fullness in the ears.
5) Use of Antibiotics
In case of severe infection, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics. Home remedies will not work.
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