Clogged ears can affect hearing and balance and cause pain and discomfort. Tips for unblocking them include yawning, applying ear drops, and using home and medical remedies to treat an underlying condition.
Clogged ears can happen to almost anyone. Children are the most likely to have clogged ears, especially during a cold or sinus infection. People are most likely to experience a clogged feeling in their ears from:
- earwax buildup
- blocked Eustachian tube
- sinus infections, colds, or allergies
- high altitudes
Earwax forms a barrier between the opening of the ear and the sensitive apparatus of the inner ear.
Earwax blocks foreign objects from entering the ear. The glands responsible for creating earwax sometimes create too much. This buildup can cause the wax to become hard.
The wax builds up and eventually blocks the entire tube.
Some signs of earwax buildup
Ear drops to loosen or soften earwax
The following are some natural solutions people can use to soften the earwax, and allow it to exit the ear safely. These are often added to the ear in the form of drops:
There are many commercial drops specifically made for removing excessive earwax.
It is also essential that people follow all instructions found on over-the-counter (OTC) kits sold for ear irrigation.
Avoid cotton swabs or tools
People should also not attempt to dig the earwax out as this can cause damage.
For this procedure, people insert a lit, cone-shaped, hollow candle into their ear.
During candling, the heat is supposed to cause a vacuum effect and allow the earwax to stick to the candle as it is pulled out.
This method does not work, however. People are likely to burn their ear, cause a perforation, or an ear canal obstruction.
Anyone experiencing clogged ears should never try this method.
If someone experiences a blocked ear due to an allergy or infection, they will also likely experience one or more of the following symptoms:
In these instances, a person should try to unclog their ear as soon as possible. A person can develop an ear infection when their ear is blocked, which would then require further treatment. The following are some at-home methods to help:
To use steam:
- heat up the water in a pot until it boils
- remove the pot from heat and place a towel over it and the head
- take several deep breaths to inhale the steam
A person can alternatively take a hot shower, as it creates a stream and has a similar effect.
Consider mineral and essential oils
These can often be inhaled as steam or placed near the nose so that the vapors are breathed in.
Use a warm compress
A warm compress can be applied to drain the nasal passages of mucus and reduce the amount in the ears.
Applying a warm compress is simply done as follows:
- pour hot water onto a clean washcloth
- once the cloth is soaked, it should be squeezed out
- hold the washcloth below the affected ear for about 5 to 10 minutes
Gargle salt water
A saltwater gargle can aid in reducing mucus in both the nose and the ears. It is also an easy remedy.
To use a saltwater gargle, a person needs to add a little salt to some water and mix them together. Once mixed, they should gargle the salt water for a few seconds, then spit it out.
People can try the following in cases of blockage caused by high altitude:
- gently blowing the nose while pinching the nostrils shut until a popping sound is heard
People should see a doctor for clogged ears if home remedies fail or if blocked ears are accompanied by any of the following additional symptoms:
- refusal to clear on own
- pain in the ear
- loss of hearing
- cannot be unclogged
The clogged feeling may be a result of an acoustic neuroma in some cases. This is a benign growth that can
Clogged ears are almost never serious but can be irritating and uncomfortable. Most people can relieve their clogged ears using home remedies.
People should never try to use a scraping object or a cotton swab to remove a clog, as these can be quite dangerous.
If someone with a clogged ear does not get relief from home remedies or OTC medications, their doctor should be able to treat the clogged ear for them effectively.