12 tips to relieve a blocked ear

my ear gets clogged when I sleep on it
Here are 12 home remedies and tips for relieving a blocked ear, which include taking a few sips of water and the Valsalva maneuver.

If you wake up with a blocked ear, these 12 tips may help you ease your symptoms:

  1. Fluid intake: Take a few sips of water.
    • You may try sipping warm water because it may help relieve symptoms of congestion.
    • You may try sucking a hard candy to get relief. Hard candies must not be given to toddlers or young children due to the risk of choking.
    • You may feed babies and young children to encourage swallowing and provide relief.
  2. Chewing gum: Chewing gum may help unblock your clogged ear.
    • Doing so helps increase saliva production and the consequent swallowing opens up the eustachian tube (a tube-like passage connecting the throat to the middle ear).
    • Chewing gums should not be given to children younger than six years.
  3. Yawning: This may help pop your ears and provide relief.
    • You may try yawning several times until you get some relief.
    • Like swallowing, yawning also helps open the eustachian tube.
  4. Valsalva maneuver: It involves attempting to breathe out (exhale) forcefully against a closed airway.
    • To perform this maneuver, pinch your nose, and while keeping your mouth closed, try to blow out of your nose. Avoid doing it too forcefully.
    • You may hear a popping sound, which means that your ear blockage is relieved.
    • You may then sip some water or chew gum to keep your ears unclogged.
  5. Toynbee maneuver: Similar to Valsalva maneuver except that after pinching your nose, you try to swallow or take a few sips of water.
  6. Decongestants: You may try using over-the-counter (OTC) decongestant nose drops to help relieve swelling in your nasal passages and eustachian tube.
    • Avoid using them for more than two to three days.
    • Do not give decongestant sprays or drops to children younger than 12 years.
  7. Steroid drops: OTC nasal drops that contain steroids may help relieve inflammation particularly in people with allergies.
  8. Antihistamine pills: If your symptoms are due to an underlying allergy, OTC antihistamine pills may provide relief.
  9. Warm towel: Keep a warm towel around the opening of the affected ear since this may help relieve symptoms.
  10. Steam inhalation: It may help reduce congestion from your nose and sinuses and provide relief from a blocked ear.
    • Avoid steam inhalation in young children to avoid the risk of burns.
  11. Ear drops: Must only be used after perforation (a hole in the eardrum) and infection have been ruled out.
    • You may put a few drops of baby oil or mineral oil, glycerin, or a diluted solution of hydrogen peroxide to soften the earwax.
    • After putting the ear drop, keep your head tilted so that the affected ear is upward for 20 to 30 seconds.
    • Tilt your head on the opposite side to drain the affected ear and wipe it clean. 
    • OTC earwax-softening drugs are available. Use them as per label instructions.
  12. Ear irrigation: This may be done with the help of a rubber bulb syringe and some warm water.
    • Tilt your head so that the affected ear is upward and gently squirt some warm water with the help of the syringe in your ear.
    • Do this a few times and then tilt your head in the opposite direction to let the water drain from your ear.
    • Wipe your ear and pat dry it.

When to contact your doctor

If you get a blocked ear often, it is important to consult a doctor to know its cause.

Additionally, you must contact your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms are severe or getting worse.
  • Symptoms last for more than a few days.
  • You get severe earache.
  • You experience dizziness.
  • Your hearing is muffled.
  • You develop a fever.
  • There is discharge or bleeding from the ear.

What causes a blocked ear?

A blocked ear may be caused by various reasons such as:

  • Wax impaction
  • Ear infection
  • Allergies
  • Water entrapment in the ear
  • Sinus infection or inflammation
  • Change in altitude (such as during aircraft journeys or scuba diving)
  • Blowing the nose too hard

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Medically Reviewed on 1/11/2022
Image Source: iStock Images