Clogged, plugged or blocked ears is a common problem encountered by many of us. It may be due to earwax, infections, sinusitis, fluid buildup, air pressure changes, etc. Clogging or blockage of the Eustachian tube leads to a feeling of fullness in the ear, dizziness, pain and discomfort.
Earwax or cerumen serves as a barrier for water, dust and particulate matter as well as infectious agents like bacteria and fungi. However, an excess buildup of earwax leads to ear blockages, pain and discomfort in the ear and may also cause difficulty in hearing. Some of the options available for removal of earwax at home have been listed below.
Use of Wax Softeners
Olive oil, baby oil, mineral oil and glycerin aid the removal of wax by softening and loosening it. Chemical agents like hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide also bring about softening of earwax and serve as an effective method for wax removal. Eardrops containing such softening agents are commercially available. Earol, Walgreen, Debrox and Similasan are some of the well-known brands. All one has to do is lie on one side and put 3-4 drops of oil or eardrops in the clogged ear, using an appropriate applicator. Rinse the ear after some time to get rid of the loosened wax and any accumulated debris.
It is a procedure used when wax buildup occurs persistently or when the simple wax softening and rinsing technique is not effective. This procedure involves an additional step over wax softening. Warm sterile water, or sterile saline water is squirted through the ear using a bulb syringe. For ear irrigation at home, specialized earwax removal kits containing softening agents and bulb syringe can be used. Mack's Pro Rinse Earwax Removal Kit, Debrox Earwax Removal Aid, etc., are the commonly used ones. Ear syringes are also commercially available. You have to follow the simple procedure provided with the kit. The first step involves softening the wax using the solution provided in the kit for the specified time period. Then use the bulb syringe to rinse the ear. One can also opt for a professional ear irrigation procedure. In this procedure, warm water is released under controlled pressure with the use of specialized equipment. The gentle force causes the wax to loosen and flow out with the water.
Cold, sinusitis and allergies lead to a blockage of Eustachian tube and may cause a build up of fluids in the middle ear. Such fluid buildup can also lead to other infections followed by inflammation, further increasing the blockage. Some treatments and remedies for such conditions are provided below.
Inhaling steam is the oldest known method to clear nasal and ear congestion. Fill up the basin with hot water. Put a towel over your head and inhale the steam. It will help the movement of mucus that is blocking the sinuses and provide relief. In case of infections and pus buildup, steam will expedite the draining out of pus and debris.
Oral decongestants and/or decongestant nasal sprays may be used to get rid of congestion in the sinuses. These act by decreasing the production of mucus, thus reducing the congestion and discomfort in nose and ears.
Antibiotic eardrops and oral medicines may be used in case of ear infections. This will help to control the infection and drain out the pus.
While traveling at high altitudes or while scuba diving and similar activities, changes in atmospheric pressure result in a difference of pressure on the inner and outer side of the eardrum. This condition is termed barotrauma and it causes a sensation of blockage and may even lead to earache and dizziness. To get relief from this clogged sensation, you can attempt the following.
- Yawn frequently and swallow hard as it aids opening up of Eustachian tube and hence the flow of air in and out of the middle ear. This equalizes the pressure inside and outside the ear.
- Chew gum or suck on candies to increase the muscular movements which help in balancing the pressure.
- Simply pop your ears. Close your mouth and nostrils and try to exhale strongly. This will force open the blockage which can be identified by the popping sound.
If you persistently experience ear clogging and these remedies do not provide relief, you can resort to a microsuction procedure. As the name suggests, it involves the sucking out of wax, fluids or foreign bodies in the ear using mild vacuuming. This can be done at home using a commercially available kit (namely Earwax Removal kit by Oxyvita Ltd) or at a clinic where the expert performs the procedure using a microscope and specialized suction equipment. The suction can cause a tingling sensation and the noise may cause a temporary discomfort.
- Avoid unnecessary removal of earwax.
- Use Q-tips only for cleaning the outer ear. Do not attempt to insert them deep or forcefully into the ear. Such an action will push earwax against the eardrum rather than aiding its removal.
- Refrain from using ear candles. There is no substantial evidence for their effectiveness and they pose the risk of burns and damage to the ear, face or even hair.
- Do not use irrigation and microsuction procedures in case of a ruptured or perforated eardrum and ear injuries. It is best to take medical advice before resorting to any such methods.
- In case of accidental insertion of foreign objects in the ear, do not attempt to remove it at home. Such attempts may push the object deeper into the ear. Even if you are successful in removing the objects, there is a risk of injury.
- If you have undergone an ear surgery, do not ignore minor signs like earache and clogging. Restrict yourself to remedies suggested by the concerned doctor.
Surgery can be the last resort to clear clogged ears in case of major or persistent blockages. Do not ignore persistent ear clogging and take the necessary measures in time to prevent the condition from aggravating.
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.