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.
- 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.
- Warm compress: Alternatively, you can place a warm compress over your ear to help clear congestion.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Yawn or swallow: If your ears tend to clog on an airplane, try yawning, swallowing, or chewing gum to keep your Eustachian tube open.
- 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.
Latest Health and Living News
Daily Health News
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
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
Top Will a Clogged Ear Go Away by Itself Related Articles
Ear Infections: All About Ear ConditionsWhat's that? I can't hear you. Maybe it's tinnitus, or impacted ear wax, or cauliflower ear (yup, that's a thing). Find out what may be ailing your ears in this slideshow.
Ear Infection SlideshowLearn about the causes and symptoms of ear infections and how they are diagnosed and treated. Read about treatments such as ear tubes and antibiotics, which could prevent future ear infections.
Ear Health QuizHow loud is too loud? Take this quiz to learn about your ears, how they function, and how to keep them healthy.
Earwax (ear wax) is a natural substance secreted by special glands in the skin on the outer part of the ear canal. It repels water, and traps dust and sand particles. Usually a small amount of wax accumulates, dries up, and then falls out of the ear canal carrying with it unwanted particles. Under ideal circumstances, you should never have to clean your ear canals. The absence of ear wax may result in dry, itchy ears, and even infection. Ear wax may accumulate in the ear for a variety of reasons including; narrowing of the ear canal, production of less ear wax due to aging, or an overproduction of ear wax in response to trauma or blockage within the ear canal.
Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
The Eustachian tube is a membrane lined tube that connects the middle ear space to the back of the nose. Symptoms of Eustachian tube dysfunction or blockage include popping and/or clicking in the ear, and ear fullness and/or pain.
Causes of Eustachian tube dysfunction or blockage include allergies, sinus infections, ear infections, and the common cold.
Treatment includes home remedies to relieve pain and several maneuvers (swallowing, chewing gum, yawning etc.), which can be done to improve Eustachian tube function. In severe cases surgery may be necessary.
flumethasone with clioquinol ear drops
Hearing Loss: Causes of Hearing LossProblems with your ears like ear infections can cause signs of hearing loss. This may be sensorineural hearing loss or conductive hearing loss. Learn how loud noises can induce hearing loss, the signs of hearing loss, and different ways you can prevent hearing problems.
Hearing Losss QuizCan hearing loss be reversed? Take this quiz to find out!
How Can I Unclog My Ears at Home?Clogged or stuffy ears may cause considerable discomfort that includes ear fullness, dizziness, muffled hearing, ringing in the ears and ear pain. Home remedies to unclog your ears include chewing, ear irrigation, performing the Valsalva maneuver, applying warm compresses, using OTC nasal decongestants or or putting oil drops or hydrogen peroxide into the affected ear.
How Do I Widen My Ear Canal?The causative situation usually results in absence or destruction of the normal canal skin. Unlike other bodily skin, this tissue has the ability to grow out, along the canal, to self-clean the area. This function is lost if the skin is irreversibly damaged when the canal must be grafted with fine grafts from elsewhere.
How Do You Clear Blocked Eustachian Tubes?Learn what medical treatments can help ease your blocked eustachian tube symptoms and speed up your recovery for blocked eustachian tubes.
Is There Surgery for Meniere’s Disease?Meniere’s disease is a chronic condition that manifests as hearing loss, vertigo, and ringing in the ears. Various surgical options are available for refractory Meniere’s disease that does not respond to medications or if the symptoms of the disease are severe.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss and Its PreventionNoise-induced hearing loss may be an acoustic trauma, which causes temporary hearing loss, or it may be permanent due to an acute acoustic trauma. Experts agree that continual exposure to more than 85 dBs (decibels) is dangerous to the ears. Ear plugs and ear muffs can help prevent noise-induced hearing loss as well as decreasing exposure to loud noises.
Sinusitis SlideshowSinus infection (sinusitis) symptoms can include headaches, a sore throat, and toothaches. Antibiotics and home remedies can relieve sinus infection symptoms.
Which Antibiotic Is Best for An Ear Infection?Ototopical antibiotics are medications administered topically in the ear for treating middle ear infections. Ototopical antibiotics are usually the first-line treatment for recurrent bacterial ear infections, in the absence of systemic infection.