Published: 05/15/2015 - Updated: 04/13/2017
Author: MSc. Miriam Reyes
Feeling like you can’t hear clearly for a while, and feeling like your ears are clogged, could be caused by lots of different things that should no doubt be treated in time, so as to prevent future complications, or more severe health problems for your ears.
Things that may cause clogged ears:
- Ear wax accumulation
- Caused by colds, the flu, infections, etc.
- Inflammation in the ear
- Blockage in the eustachian tube
- Nasal congestion, sinusitis, and allergies
- Abrupt changes in atmospheric pressure
There are a lot of people that ignore these bodily signs and that let symptoms go by without giving them much attention. These symptoms are small alarms that the body sets off to let us know that something is going on in your body. In this case, if your ears frequently become clogged and you don’t tend to what could be causing the problem, you could end up with hearing loss.
Blockage of the eustachian tube
Your ear is divided into your external, middle, and internal ear. The middle ear has lots of tiny bones (malleus, incus, and strapes), and this is where the small cavity is located that contains air. This separates the external ear from the tympanic cavity. This cavity communicates with the area behind the nose by using a tube called the eustachian tube, which is very important. It compensates for pressure variances that occur within the middle ear during altitude changes, like going up in a plane, driving in a car, going up a mountain, scuba diving, etc.
If the pressure in your middle ear differs from that in the environment around you (outside), your ears become “clogged”. Your head will also feel shocked, and you may even experience a temporary deafness.
What to do
If you’re driving in a car, on a plane, or if the pain is due to pressure changes, yawning helps. So chew a piece of gum or open your mouth wide. This releases tension from the ear and regulates pressure. If it doesn’t go away, just give it time. Plug your nose and try to blow air out your ears. This is very effective for children, so help them by telling them to yawn, or imitate a lion (roar while opening their mouth). It generally hurts when the ears are plugged, and you’ll feel some sort of discomfort or squealing when you unclog them, but this is normal.
Clogged ears during a trip
Generally your ears will become clogged when in the car or a plane, or even when on a boat. A lot of people get dizzy and nauseated. This this case, follow the aforementioned tips, but we also recommend you eat a small piece of raw ginger before travelling. This is perfect for preventing dizziness and nausea, and for helping your ears unclog more easily. Another way to help the symptoms pass quickly is to place a drop of chamomile water into your ear (just boil water with a bit of chamomile, and wait until it cools).
If it is wax that is clogging your ear, see a professional so they can wash your ears or remove any possibly accumulated wax. Cities are generally contaminated, which could cause excessive wax. If you’re out on the street, or there is a lot of noise or cars, you may be more prone to accumulating wax in your ears. Never try to remove the wax with hard or pointy objects, like Q-tips, safety pins, etc. You should only wash your ears externally. The wax will come out on its own, objects only push the wax back further, which could severely damage your ears. Let the wax soften when in the shower, and then rub a moist cloth around your ear, but only as far as your index finger will go.
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Other possible causes
If you can’t find any apparent cause for your clogged ears, keep stress in mind. This is one factor that often times causes health problems. Stress generally weakens the most heavily used area in your body. If you talk on the phone at work, or if you’re a musician and you’re exposed to loud noises, frequently using your ears to listen to things you don’t like, your ear will notice this. This could be stressing your ears, creating more wax than normal. This will frequently clog your ears, even though you wash well.
If, in addition to clogged ears, you hear a constant buzzing or ringing in the ear, and you can’t hear very well for a prolonged period of time, it’s best to see a professional so they can take a look at the problem.
Revised by: Dra. Loredana Lunadei on 04/13/2017
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