Healthy Living

Plugged Ears: The 6 Most Common Reasons Ears Feel Clogged, and What You Can Do About It

When you experience what people call ‘plugged ears’o on an airplane or after swimming, that’s a simple was of saying your eustachian tubes — which run between your middle ear and the back of your nose — are blocked.

We’ve mapped out the 5 most common causes of plugged ears and what you can do about -without bursting an eardrum- below.

6 Most Common Causes of Plugged Ears

  1. You have water in your ears. Also known as the swimmer’s ear, water can cause your ears to plug. Usually, this can be solved by tilting the head to the side, depending on the ear that is plugged, which will allow the water to come out naturally.
  2. You have an ear infection. When a person has the sensation of covered ears that doesn’t go away from yawning or head swinging, it is very possible that they may have some type of infection in the ear, which can be the consequence of a cold. In these cases, the middle of the ear canal is blocked by the accumulation of mucus, and when this happens, you will need to see a doctor and possibly be sent to an ear specialist.
  3. You just have a lot of ear wax.  Sometimes ears just have too much wax and plug up that way. This is not a very common problem, as ears have their own built-in cleaning system, but a certain percentage of the population may overproduce ear wax. Don’t try to remove excessive ear wax yourself. Let your doctor remove it with special equipment to avoid rupturing your eardrum or pushing the wax even further into your ear.
  4. Loud noises can clog your ears. Ever have plugged ears after going to a really loud concert? If a person suddenly hears a loud noise or was exposed to loud noises for very long periods of time, then they will have the symptoms of a blocked ear. There are more severe cases in which there is a temporary loss of hearing.
  5. There’s a foreign object in the ear. This is a fairly common reason children have plugged ears. If you see a child constantly rubbing their ear or making a funny face while holding their ear, it may be a clue something is inside.  With foreign objects in the ear, your child will most likely not have a fever or any cold symptoms. They could develop a fever if the object is in long enough to cause an infection. Remember to never stick anything sharp inside of the ear in an attempt to remove a foreign object, and to see a doctor if you are unsure.
  6. Pressure changes and Altitude changes. You ever notice if/when you’ve been on an airplane, you can feel as your ears begin to clog? When it comes to high altitude plugged ear, you can relieve this symptom by trying to yawn continuously or chewing a piece of gum.

The best way to unclog your clogged ears: YAWN

These are some of the most common causes by which a person experiences plugged ears. And, to relieve them, the Mayo Clinic says: “If you have your ears covered, try swallowing, yawning or chewing gum without sugar to open the Eustachian tubes. If this does not work, take a deep breath and try to blow gently by covering your nose with two fingers on a tweezer and your mouth closed. If you hear a click, it’s because you’ve achieved it. “ If none of the above helps you alleviate this symptom, then it is time to schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Other options for clearing plugged ears that your doctor could recommend may include:

  • Nasal decongestants for several days (no more than a few days)
  • Topical nasal steroids(this is especially effective for clearing ears for people with allergies)
  • Ventilation tubes (in severe cases, you have to drain fluid to relieve pressure)
  • In the case of excessive ear wax, a doctor may scoop it out with a special tool called a curette or cerumen spoon.
  • The doctor may recommend special ear drops designed for helping break down ear wax.

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