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Why do my ears feel clogged?

Last update on Nov, 20, 2022

Have you ever dealt with a clogged ear or felt like your ears wouldn’t pop? The feeling of having plugged or clogged ears can be unpleasant, especially if you don’t know what’s causing it. Many cases of clogged ears are temporary, but some cases can last longer and affect how you hear. Knowing what’s causing your ear to feel clogged can help you identify solutions for how to fix it. Learn more about what causes clogged ears and how to fix them.

What do clogged ears feel like?

Clogged ears are often described as a feeling of fullness or pressure. Some symptoms of clogged ears include muffled hearing, popping sounds, ear pain, ringing in the ears (or tinnitus), or even dizziness. A clogged ear can sometimes be confused with sudden temporary hearing loss, which is a much more serious condition that requires care from a health professional. If you suspect that you have sudden temporary hearing loss, consult with your doctor immediately to find treatment options.

Common causes of clogged ears

man getting his ears examined

Your clogged ears can be caused by a number of reasons. Some common reasons why your ears may feel clogged include:

Eustachian tube dysfunction is a condition that occurs when the Eustachian tube, or the small tube that connects your middle ear to your throat, gets plugged. The Eustachian tubes typically open after you sneeze or yawn to prevent air pressure and fluids from building up in your ear. When these tubes become plugged, your ears may feel clogged or even a little painful.

A common cause of Eustachian tube dysfunction is when the tube becomes swollen due to a cold, the flu, a sinus infection, or allergy symptoms. Sudden changes in altitudes on plane rides or elevators can also exacerbate symptoms of this condition. Children, smokers, and people who are obese are more at risk for developing Eustachian tube dysfunction.

Most people have a normal amount of ear wax in their ears, which indicates that the ears are healthy and functioning. However, having too much ear wax in your ears can cause them to feel clogged and muffle your hearing. The best way to remove excessive ear wax is to get your ears cleaned by a healthcare professional. 

Fluids can build up in your ears as a result of an ear infection and make it harder to hear. Eustachian tube dysfunction is a common reason why you may have fluid in your ears. You may also get water stuck in your ear after swimming.

Swimmer's ear is an infection that occurs when water gets trapped in the ear after swimming. If you have swimmer’s ear, you may experience fullness in your ears as well as itchiness and pain. Swimmer’s ear can be easily treated and prevented, but it is important to catch the infection during the early stages to avoid further damage.

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) can occur when the muscles around your temporomandibular joint get inflamed, which can also lead to blockage in the Eustachian tubes. TMJ can be treated with home remedies or TMJ surgeries.

How to unclog your ears

Most cases of clogged ears will go away on their own after a few days. If your ears have just recently clogged up, it might be helpful to try chewing gum, yawning, or pinching your nose and exhaling to get your ears to pop. If your ears are clogged due to an illness or allergies, try using over-the-counter products such as decongestants, antihistamines, or nasal steroid sprays. You can also use ear drops to remove excessive ear wax with the guidance of a health care professional.

couple meeting with HCP

Invest in your health

If your ears remain clogged after a long period of time, it may be helpful to get your ears properly examined. Find your nearest Miracle-Ear store and schedule an appointment with one of our hearing professionals to learn what’s causing your ears to feel clogged.

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