Will a Clogged Ear Go Away by Itself? 8 Remedies

Medically Reviewed on 12/16/2021
Will a Clogged Ear Go Away by Itself
A clogged ear is typically temporary, and your ear will likely clear on its own within a few hours or days depending on the cause

While a clogged ear may not necessarily be painful, it can be frustrating, especially if it muffles your hearing. But a clogged ear is typically temporary, and your ear will likely clear on its own within a few hours or days depending on the cause:

  • Fluid: If your ears are clogged by water or another fluid, they will often clear quickly.
  • Air pressure: If the blockage is caused by air pressure, it may take a few days to go away.
  • Ear infection: If your blocked ears are caused by an ear infection, you may have to wait until your body fights the infection, which could take a couple of weeks.
  • Sinus infection: If you have a sinus infection, you may have to wait even longer for your ears to unclog.

It may be helpful to identify why your ear is feeling clogged, so that you can figure out the best way to treat it and prevent complications.

What causes ears to feel clogged?

  • Trapped water: Your ears can trap water, sweat, and other fluids when you go swimming or sweat excessively.
  • High altitude: Some people experience ear clogging when on an airplane, as the change in air pressure can cause a blockage in the ear.
  • Earwax accumulation: Earwax is typically soft, but it can block the ear if it hardens. Other symptoms may include earache, ear discharge, ringing in the ears, and dizziness.
  • Common cold: When you have a cold or stuffy nose, swelling in the area can block the Eustachian tube that connects your throat to your middle ear. This can lead to mucus being trapped in the ear.
  • Ear infection: Outer ear infections, also known as swimmer's ear, are caused by a bacterial or viral infection in the ear canal, which causes fluid and pressure to build up in the ear. Otitis media (middle ear infection) affects the eardrum and fills the middle ear with fluid. Symptoms may include ear pain, nausea, fever, headache, and irritability.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus pressure can lead to nasal congestion and clogged ears, although the discomfort in the ears may subside after a few days. Sinus infections require antibiotic therapy.
  • Allergies: Allergens such as pollen, dust, or animal hair can cause your nasal mucosa to become inflamed. The eustachian tube swells and narrows, resulting in congested ears.
  • Growths: A blocked feeling in your ears can be caused by growths or lumps. Adenoids, which is tissue at the back of your nose that reaches your throat, may also cause a blockage.
  • Noise-induced hearing loss: A blast of loud noise or repeated exposure to loud noises can result in temporary hearing loss, one of the symptoms of which could be a sensation of blockage in the ear. Temporary hearing loss should within 48 hours, but if it lasts longer you should consult an audiologist.
  • Injuries to hearing organs: Isolated damage to one or more areas of the hearing organ can cause a sensation of ear congestion.
  • High blood pressure: Blood pressure over 140/90 mmHg may result in poor circulation and an obstructed ear. Spikes in blood pressure can cause headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, and tinnitus.
  • Anxiety: Pressure in the ear can also be a symptom of anxiety, especially during a panic attack. Your inner ear is sensitive to changes in blood supply, and if your heart is pounding or your blood pressure rises because of anxiety, your ears can be affected. Stress hormones can also disrupt the delicate balance of fluids in your ear, causing congestion.
  • Meniere’s disease: Meniere’s disease is a condition that affects the inner ear and causes lifelong hearing loss. When the cells in the inner ear are damaged, you may experience a blocked or ringing sensation in your ears.
  • Side effects of medications: Clogged ears is a rare side effect of taking antibiotics for bacterial infections for 2 weeks. Aminoglycoside antibiotics, loop diuretics, psychiatric medications, and cytostatics should be used with caution.

8 ways to clear a clogged ear

You can treat a clogged ear at home. However, keep in mind that your ear is extremely delicate and you may risk damaging your ears. Seek the advice of a doctor before trying these remedies.

  1. Steam: Inhaling steam from a hot shower for 5-10 minutes can help loosen mucus lodged in the ear and help open the Eustachian tube.
  2. Warm compress: Alternatively, you can place a warm compress over your ear to help clear congestion.
  3. Decongestants and nasal sprays: If you have sinus or nasal congestion and need to drain your ear and nose, over-the-counter oral decongestants and nasal sprays can be especially helpful, although they are often more effective as a preventative measure.
  4. Oil: Warm 2-3 tablespoons of mineral, olive, or baby oil, making sure it’s not too hot. Place 1-2 drops into your ear with a dropper and hold your head at an angle for 10-15 seconds. Repeat 1-2 times a day until the blockage is resolved.
  5. Hydrogen peroxide: Fill a bowl with equal parts warm distilled water and hydrogen peroxide. Place 1-2 drops into your ear with a dropper and hold your head at an angle for 10-15 seconds until the fizzing stops.
  6. Valsalva maneuver: This maneuver opens your Eustachian tube and can help unclog your ears if the blockage is caused by high altitude pressure. Keep your mouth closed while exhaling through your nose. Don’t exhale too forcefully as this can damage your eardrum.
  7. Yawn or swallow: If your ears tend to clog on an airplane, try yawning, swallowing, or chewing gum to keep your Eustachian tube open.
  8. Ear irrigation (usually done by a doctor): Ear irrigation involves directing a jet of water in your ear canal and suctioning out impacted wax. However, as this can cause ear infections, punctured eardrums, and tinnitus, it should only be done in severe cases. 

When to call a doctor

While it may be tempting to try to clear out your ears with cotton swabs, trying to dig out something from your ear can push objects further in and cause damage to your ear canal.

Contact your doctor as soon as possible if your ear remains clogged despite using various techniques or if you experience pain and hearing loss. In rare cases, clogged ears can worsen and develop complications.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 12/16/2021
Image Source: iStock Images

Earwax Buildup & Blockage: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14428-ear-wax-buildup--blockage

Blocked Eustachian Tubes: https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uf9680

How to unclog stuffy ears: https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/how-to-unclog-stuffy-ear

Clogged Ears? Learn What Might Are the Reasons: https://www.okoa.org/articles/clogged-ears-learn-what-might-are-the-reasons