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Blocked Ears

Blocked Ears

Clogged ears are very common, however, at times, the condition can be very painful. This HealthHearty article presents information on the reasons for blocked ears. It also provides remedies to pop them open.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Plugged ears or earwax blockage is usually a mild and temporary condition. The glands present in the ear canal produce a waxy substance called 'cerumen' (commonly known as 'earwax'). The wax protects the inner ear from dust, bacteria, fungi, insects, and water. If too much of earwax is produced, or if the wax is pushed too far into the ear canal, one may suffer from earwax blockage and/or pain in an ear.
When the ears of a person are blocked, he/she will feel as though there is a can kept on the ear, the person may have pain in the ear, and there will be partial hearing loss. The condition can lead to ringing or popping sound in the ear and a feeling of fullness in the ear. All these are the signs and symptoms of blockage in ears.
Causes
Wax
Earwax helps to keep the ear clean and dry. Unfortunately, earwax is one of the important causes of blocked ears. When you use cotton buds to remove the wax, most of the time you end up pushing the wax inside the ear. This wax goes on accumulating in layers, and then the ears become blocked. Doctors say that there is no need to clean the ear, as the wax drops off from the ear without us knowing it, and cleans the ear by itself. Accumulated wax or cerumen impaction can give rise to several ear problems, for example, it can trap bacteria in the air, and can lead to ear infection.
Cold
Cold is another reason that blocks the ears. This happens because the ear, nose, and throat are internally connected. So, when you suffer from cold, the ears gets blocked in no time. Common cold often leads to stuffy nose as well as stuffy ears. The mucus gets trapped in a canal that connects the ears and the nasal passage (the Eustachian tube). Normally, this canal is closed, but it opens at times to balance the overall pressure. When you suffer from cold, the mucus and the bacteria enter this canal, and this leads to severe ear block. Pain and impaired hearing are the results of this block.
Sinus Infections
Ears get blocked, when you suffer from sinus infections. Sinuses are small cavities behind the nose that allow air and fluids to pass. When these openings get clogged, or swollen due to cold or allergies, you are said to be suffering from sinus infection. The tissue lining the Eustachian tube can swell due to sinus infections and allergies, and can lead to closing of the Eustachian tube.
Other Causes
Ear infections may also cause the ears to become blocked. Water entering the ear (especially when swimming), an insect entering the ear, tumors or growths within the ear canal, enlarged adenoids, etc., can lead to ear infection and/or ear blockage.
How to Clear Blocked Ears
Steam
Inhaling steam, one of the oldest methods, will help to unblock the ears. You will need a steamer full of hot water, and a towel over your head. A few drops of eucalyptus oil can be added to the water to provide instant relief. Inhaling steam is an easy clogged ear remedy. Alternatively, you can apply heated cloth pads over the ear to pop them open.
Breathing
Swallow hard, and yawn frequently. This helps the ears to pop open, restoring your hearing ability. This can also help reduce the pain. Another way to clear the blocked ear is to inhale and then close the nose. Try to exhale through the ears by applying some pressure. Be careful not to apply too much pressure. This is a good technique, which provides immediate ear pain relief. It can unblock the ears.
Other Ways
Other methods to cure blocked ears include massaging the ear, nose, and eye area, using a nasal spray to unclog the nose, which will unblock the ears too. Other than that, there are several home remedies to cure sinus and cold, which will also help to unblock the ears. In case of earwax buildup in an ear, put in two drops of warm olive oil, and lie down with the blocked ear facing the roof. Olive oil assists in gentle earwax removal. Get up after 5 minutes, and all the earwax will fall out of the ear along with the olive oil. You can also use garlic oil for ear infection. However, it is better to consult an ear specialist before putting oil in the ear. It is necessary to know the exact cause of the blockage. Ear candling is also one of the ways to remove the wax from the ears, but let the expert handle it.
Blocked Ears during a Flight
The middle ear is an air pocket, which is very susceptible to changes in the air pressure. When you travel by an air plane, the air pressure in the surrounding atmosphere changes drastically. This is most common, when the plane is descending. Pressure changes in the middle and outer ear that occur during traveling can lead to a sensation of blocked ears. Rapid changes in the air pressure cause your ears to block. Swallowing and yawning widely can help bring back the pressure in ears to normal levels. If these do not work, then pinch your nose, shut it for a while, and inhale through your mouth. Try to exhale through your ears. This should pop them open. Ask for ear plugs, when you sit in the plane, these might help prevent the ears from blocking. When traveling by road, if the road is mountainous, you may feel that your ears are blocked.
If your ears do not open up in spite of all these earache treatments at home, you should visit your doctor. Also, if your ear is bleeding, if foul odor is coming from the ear, or if you notice a discharge from the ear, then it is vital to go to the doctor.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.