Why Does My Ear Feel Clogged?

written by Becki Andrus
Why Does My Ear Feel Clogged?

The sensation of having a clogged ear can be an annoyance, making you feel like you hear muffled sounds. In addition, holding a conversation or getting through regular daily activities can be challenging when you feel like your hearing is hindered by a clogged ear.

Sometimes, your ears feel clogged, and you also experience pain or discomfort. Other times, the clogged sensation is a standalone symptom.

The good news is that several home remedies can help you find fast relief. The best solution is to identify underlying causes, then apply treatments that will help alleviate the symptoms now and prevent future problems.

Common Causes for Clogged Ears

A clogged sensation can affect one or both ears, depending on the underlying cause. These are some of the most common reasons why patients feel like their ears are clogged:

Blockage in the Eustachian Tube

A small tube is located within the ear, connecting the middle ear to the throat. This tube allows the mucus and fluid to flow out of the ear and drain down the back of the throat.

But, if the tube is blocked, then it causes the fluid and mucus to build up within the middle ear. As a result, the ear is clogged. This type of ear blockage often goes hand-in-hand with other types of infection, such as sinusitis, the flu, allergies, or a common cold.

If allergies or infection blocks the Eustachian Tube, then you will likely have other symptoms coinciding with your clogged ear:

  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat

It’s important that you open up the Eustachian Tube to help the fluid drain. In addition, treatment is essential to minimize the risk of developing a secondary infection in the middle ear.

Swimmer’s Ear

Do you spend a lot of time in the water? Then it’s possible that swimmer’s ear could be the root cause of your clogged ear.

If the water remains in your ear canal after you swim, it can cause the perfect conditions for an ear infection to develop. In addition, this environment is ideal for the growth of fungus or bacteria, which are both root causes of ear infections (which can cause blockages in the Eustachian Tubes).

The best route is to talk to an ENT for immediate treatment to clear up the infection. Then, be proactive about drying the ears thoroughly going forward to minimize the risk of swimmer’s ear in the future.

If you have recurring ear infections due to swimmer’s ear, you might consider using earplugs when you are in the water.

Excess Earwax

It’s normal for the ears to produce wax on an ongoing basis. This wax works to cleanse the ear canal and adds a layer of protection against outside bacteria and infection-causing compounds. In addition, the wax can prevent debris from coming inside the ear.

Typically, this wax is soft and drains out of the ear. But there are times when the wax hardens, which can cause a blockage within the ear.

If you have excess earwax blocking the ear, then you might be experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Earache
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing sensation in the ears

One common cause of earwax blockages is when a patient tries to use a cotton swab to clean the inside of the ear. Instead of removing the wax, the cotton swab pushes the wax deeper into the ear, causing it to become impacted.

The best solution to clean out excess wax is to visit an ENT for professional treatment.

Altitude Changes

Altitude increases can cause temporary ear clogging because of how the ears respond to a change in pressure. If there is a rapid change in pressure, the ears are sometimes slow to respond – causing you to feel like your ears are blocked.

Common causes of altitude changes include flying in an airplane, driving in a car up a mountain, or scuba diving.

The Eustachian Tube usually equalizes the pressure within the middle ear when these altitude changes happen. But, the higher altitudes or pressure from scuba diving can make it harder for the ears to equalize. As a result, it feels like the ears are clogged.

Treatment Options to Alleviate a Clogged Ear

If you have symptoms of a clogged ear, then you can try a few different home remedies to alleviate the discomfort. Common treatment options include:

  • Valsalva Maneuver: Take a deep breath, then pinch your nose. Keep your mouth closed and try to gently exhale through the nose to put pressure on the ears. You might hear a “popping” sound as the ear unclogs. Be careful to avoid blowing too hard because it could damage your eardrum.
  • Chew Gum: Sometimes, sucking on hard candy or chewing gum can be an excellent solution to help the Eustachian Tubes open. This recommendation is a great solution for people on airplanes or car rides at high altitudes.
  • Steam Inhalation: Open up the drainage pathways in the upper respiratory system using steam. The simplest way is to take a hot shower for 10 – 15 minutes. The steam helps to loosen the mucus in the nose, ears, and sinuses so everything can drain.
  • Ear Drops: You can buy an earwax removal kit at the local drugstore. These eardrops help to soften the earwax. Then you can flush it out gently. Another option is to place a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in the ear while you are lying on your side. Keep the drops in your ear for a few minutes while your head is tilted.
  • Over-the-Counter Medication: Using certain types of over-the-counter medication can be helpful in relieving symptoms. Look for a sinus or cold remedy that has a decongestant. An antihistamine is another option. Always follow the label directions to determine dosage and frequency.

When to See an ENT for Clogged Ears

Do you need to talk to an ENT about your symptoms? If you are experiencing pain, it could indicate an ear infection – which means you should talk to a doctor for treatment.

Additionally, it’s smart to visit a specialist if your ear blockage is causing vertigo or dizziness.

You might need medical intervention to find relief when the symptoms are ongoing. An ENT is the best resource since most primary care physicians don’t have specialized experience to help with these complicated conditions affecting the ears, nose, and sinuses.

Do you live in Collin County or Dallas and are looking for an ENT? Then contact us at Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat for a consultation at a Frisco or Plano, TX office. We have an online form you can use for an appointment request, or call our office any time: (972) 596-4005.

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