Clogged Ears

Clogged Ears: Causes, Picture, Symptoms and Treatment

Clogged ears refer to the condition that you may have experienced at least once in your life. The stuffing sensation in your ears may not cause pain. But, it can muffle the sounds and affect your hearing adversely. You need to strain your ears to hear anything properly. So, it becomes a real nuisance. At times, you can experience pain and discomfort. Several factors can lead to a problem. Generally, your ears may block and unblock on its own, several times a day. It takes from a few minutes to several days for the ears to unblock. Several different conditions can cause ear blockage. You need to see a doctor identify the actual cause leading to the problem. Simple issues can cure on its own or with home remedies or over-the-counter medications. Therefore, talk to your doctor to identify the actual cause and suitable remedy to treat the clogged ears. It also prevents future problems.

What Do You Mean By Clogged Ears?

Clogged Ears The ears have vital functions in your life. The important organs help you interpret the sound waves and makes it possible for you to hear. The organ also aids in maintaining the balance in your body. Your ear has a canal that facilitates the influx of sound waves. It also ensures outflow of the wax accumulated in your ear. In most cases, the inside and outside factors can lead to the clogging in your ears. So, the clogged ears cause severe discomfort. You can experience discomfort or/and pain. It also affects your sense of balance and hearing.

When you treat the problem, identifying the actual cause triggering it becomes important. When you or your doctor detect the actual issue leading to the ear clogging, it helps develop the best treatment plan. The treatment plan varies for different causes. So, you can easily eliminate the issue and prevent in the future. The clogged feeling in your ears can distract and annoy you. You wish for the problem to go away as soon as possible. But, the time taken for the issue to clear depends on the main problem triggering it. Early treatment can relieve the problem swiftly. Therefore, take action immediately to prevent discomfort.

Causes Of Clogged Ears

clogged ears
Source:Med India

Different problems can lead to the clogging in the ears. Depending on the root cause of the problem, you can experience different signs. So, the main problem leading to the clogged feeling in your ear are:

Eustachian Tube Blockage

It is one of the most common causes of clogged ears. The Eustachian tubes run from your middle ear to the back of your throat. In normal cases, the fluid and mucus flow through the Eustachian tubes. It travels from the ear to the back of the throat. When it reaches your throat, you swallow it. But, when the fluid or mucus get trapped in the tube, it leads to plugged ears. The trapping of the fluid in the middle ear can happen due to infections. Problems like sinusitis, influenza, or common cold can result in the issue. At times, allergic rhinitis can also result in the Eustachian tube blockage. Therefore, the problem mostly affects when you have a cold or allergies.

Symptoms Of Eustachian Blockage

Plugged ears are the main sign associated with the problem. But, you can also experience other signs or symptoms like:

It is important to unblock the Eustachian tube. The fluid accumulation in the tube can trigger ear infection. So, it can cause the bacteria or virus to attack the middle ear. It is a severe condition, which can result in hearing loss.

Swimmer’s Ear

As the name suggests, it occurs when the water remains in your ear after swimming. The water can result in the clogged ears. It also creates a moist environment that encourages the growth of fungus or bacteria. So, you can suffer from infection.

Symptoms Of Swimmer’s Ear

The infection can initiate several other signs in your body. So, you can see the following problem along with the plugged ears:

  • Redness
  • Fever
  • Ear pain
  • Fluid drainage

Higher Altitude

When you go underwater to travel at high altitude, it can change the air pressure. The change in pressure can affect your body. In general cases, the Eustachian tube can equalize the pressure in your middle ear. But, in higher altitude, the Eustachian tube cannot perform the task of equalizing the pressure properly. So, you can experience ear blockage. It is a temporary condition that relieves quickly. You can experience the problem when you drive up a mountain, fly in an airplane or go scuba diving.

Symptoms Of Clogged Ears At Higher Altitude

In most cases, you can experience only plugged ears with the problem. But, some people can develop altitude sickness. Therefore, you can experience signs like:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Headache

Accumulation Of Earwax

In normal cases, the earwax protects your ear from any problems. It cleanses the ear canal. Ear wax also prevents the debris and other external particles from entering the ear. Earwax is soft in nature, which causes no issues. You use cotton swabs to clean your ear. But, the wrong action can push the wax deep into the ear. When excess wax accumulates deep in the ear, it hardens and causes clogged ears.

Symptoms Of Excess Earwax

When the excess earwax triggers the blockage, you can suffer from other signs or symptoms like:

Acoustic Neuroma

Acoustic Neuroma

It is the only problem triggering plugged ears that need immediate medical attention. Acoustic Neuroma refers to the benign growth inside your ear. It develops in your cranial nerve that leads from the inner region of the ear to your brain. The non-cancerous tumors have a small size and grow slowly. But, when they become larger in size, it puts pressure on the nerves of your ear. So, you can experience plugged ear.

Symptoms Of Acoustic Neuroma

The tumor can cause other symptoms apart from the clogged ears. So, see your doctor if you also suffer from the following:

Diagnosis Of Clogged Ears

In most cases, you can detect the problem yourself. You can use the home remedies to get relief from the problem. But, if the problem persists even after a week of experimenting the home remedies, then you need to see a doctor. The doctor can clogged ears caused by all other conditions except for acoustic neuroma with just the physical assessment.

Physical Examination

Your doctor can ask you about the signs you observe apart from the plugged ears. The doctor can also collect information regarding the hearing loss, pain, and other signs you experience. After getting the details, your doctor checks the inside of your ear canal. The tests also check the passage into your nose as well as throat to detect any signs of infection.

Audiometry (Hearing Test)

Audiometry (Hearing Test)

Your doctor can suggest for hearing tests when you complain about hearing loss. A hearing specialist conducts the examination. The audiologists check your hearing by directing the sounds to one ear at a time. You are presented with a diverse range of sound with different tones. So, each time when you hear the sound, you need to indicate it. The tone is repeated at different sound levels to detect the faint levels that you fail to hear. The audiologist can also present different words to detect your ability to hear properly.

Imaging Tests

Sophisticated imaging techniques can reveal the presence of a tumor or other foreign object that triggers hearing problem or clogged ears. The test is mostly suggested in case of acoustic neuroma. Your doctor uses the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to detect the presence of tumors. The imaging tests can reveal tumors as small as one to two millimeters in diameter. Some patients find it difficult to tolerate MRI scans. In such cases, your doctor can suggest CT (Computerized Tomography) detect the tumor presence.

Home Remedies For Clogged Ears

Clogged ears can cause distraction and agony. At times, you can suffer from severe pain, which can make you uncomfortable. But, in most cases, you can treat it at home easily. Here are the following methods to overcome the plugged ears at your home:

Adopt Valsalva maneuver

Adopt Valsalva maneuver

It is a simple technique to open the Eustachian tube blockage. The technique can create enough pressure to unclog the ear. Once your tubes open, suck on hard candy or chew gum to keep your ears opened.

Inhale Steam

It is another effective remedy to overcome clogged ears. Turn on your shower and stay in the bathroom for at least ten to fifteen minutes. The steam from the shower water can loosen the mucus accumulated in your ear. You can also place a warm compress or washcloth over your ear to get a result.

Drain/Dislodge Trapped Fluid

The trapped fluid in your Eustachian tubes can trigger infection. You can drain the fluid by yourself. Use your index finger for it. Insert it in your affected ear. Move your fingers up and down slowly to dislodge the fluid. You can also use a hairdryer to dry the ear. Keep the heat setting low and hold the dryer a few inches away from your ear to dry the fluid.

Over-The-Counter Medication

Clogged ears can occur due to allergies, cold, or even sinus drainage. In such cases, you can treat the pain and stuffiness in the ears with the over-the-counter medications. You can take the sinus or cold medications that contain a decongestant to get relief. You can even take an antihistamine to reduce the discomfort and distress associated with the problem. So, just follow the directions suggested on the label of the medication.

Ear drops

You can use eardrops to flush the earwax outside. It helps soften the earwax deep inside your ear. Place two or three drops of hydrogen peroxide, baby oil, or warm mineral oil into the ear. Use the medicine dropper to pour the drops. Always keep the head tilted after pouring the drops. It will help flush out the wax. You can even use an earwax removal kit to flush out the earwax from the ears.

Medical Treatment For Clogged Ears

When you fail to unplug your ears with the home remedies, then you need to see your doctor. So, the ENT doctor can diagnose the problem and offer treatment for the problem.

Removing Earwax

Removing Earwax

In some cases, you cannot remove the hard earwax with the home remedies. So, your ENT doctor can remove it with the use of specialized tools. The manual wax removal technique uses tools for suction and removes the wax accumulated deep in the ear.


The Eustachian tube blockage and fluid buildup may require prescription medications to relieve the discomfort. So, the following medications can provide you relief.


You need to take antibiotics to overcome the ear infection. The prescribed dose of antibiotics can also provide relief from a sinus infection.

Antifungal Medications

People with swimmer’s ear are at risk of getting a fungal or viral infection in their ears. So, the doctor can prescribe an antifungal medication.


It is prescribed by the doctor to decrease congestion in your ears. It can unplug the Eustachian tubes in your affected ear. So, it allows the fluid accumulated in the tubes to drain. It provides you relief from the clogged ears.

Pain Medications

The clogging in the ears can trigger pain. It is mostly possible as you may get an infection. Therefore, your doctor can suggest taking a painkiller. You can use the over-the-counter painkillers like Ibuprofen, Naproxen sodium, and Acetaminophen to overcome the pain.


The invasive method is opted to clear the clogged ears due to acoustic neuroma. Your doctor suggests the surgery only when the tumor in the ear becomes large or causes hearing problems.

Preventing Clogged Ears

You cannot pinpoint a specific method to prevent clogged ears. It is due to the fact that different reasons can result in the condition. But, you can definitely take some steps in your life to keep the problem away. Maintaining caution can help you ward off the ear blockage and the distress associated with it.

Avert Earwax

Earwax buildup is one of the major causes of clogged ears. You have no specific method to prevent the ear buildup. But, following some steps can ensure you keep the excess wax from accumulating in the ear:

  • Use a swab to gently clean the earwax after you shower
  • Take an appointment with an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) specialist every six months or one year. The specialist can help clean the earwax. Professional cleaning can prevent any harm while cleaning the ear.
  • Get prescription ear drops from the ENT specialist to soften the earwax and prevent wax buildup in the ear canal.

Avoiding Airplane Ear

When you travel in an airplane or experience change in air pressure, you can follow the points suggested below:

Using Decongestants

You can use a decongestant before you travel by air. It helps reduce mucous membrane swelling. The selling of the mucous membranes usually exerts the pressure on your ears. Therefore, using decongestant can relieve the clogging sensation.

Valsalva maneuver

It is the technique that helps you readjust your pressure in the ears. You can perform the maneuver by taking a deep breath first. Then, you need to shut your nostrils by pinching it and simultaneously close your mouth. Now, try to exhale against the nostrils, which are pinched. For the technique to work, it is not necessary to breathe forcefully.

Passive Techniques

As the name suggests, the techniques can passively aid in the opening of the Eustachian tubes in your ear. Therefore, you can reduce the clogging or the feeling of fullness in your ears. There are several techniques, which you can try as per your convenience:

  • Chewing Gum
  • Drinking Water
  • Swallowing Frequently
  • Yawning


These accessories are designed for people who experienced airplane ear. You can use it if you travel frequently by air. The earplugs have special filters, which promotes airflow. So, it equalizes the air pressure in your ears. No scientific evidence is available suggesting the effectiveness of the device. But, people who have used it claim its effectiveness. Therefore, you can give it a try to avoid clogged ears during your flight.

Swimmer’s Ear Prevention

The clogged ears due to water getting into your ears during swimming become easy to prevent by adopting some steps:

  • You can keep your ear dry by rubbing just the alcohol or use a mixture of alcohol and vinegar. It can dry the eardrum and prevent the infection from developing.
  • Try using the ear drops that specifically removes the water from your ears. You can get the packaged ear drops sold in the drugstores. But, remember people who have holes in their ears must never use the ear drops.
  • You can also use towels or hair dryers to keep your ears clean and free from infection.


Clogged ears do not cause any adverse effects on your body. It is not a life-threatening problem, so you can relax. The temporary problem mostly clears with home remedies as well as using over-the-counter medications. But, if your ears remain clogged even after trying several home remedies, then see a doctor. Signs like pain, ringing in ears or hearing loss requires medical attention. So, the prescription ear drops from the ENT specialist can offer relief from pain and clear the ears. At times, you need manual wax removal to clear your ears. Other factors like air pressure or water clogging in-ears resolve easily within a short duration. Ear wax buildup and infection take a longer time to clear. Therefore, the problem resolves with little care and attention.

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