How to open a blocked ear: top remedies for clogged ears

Do your ears feel clogged? Wondering how to open a blocked ear? A clogged ear may not necessarily cause you pain or discomfort, but it can muffle your hearing and cause you to strain to hear. This can quickly become a real nuisance.

A clogged ear is often temporary and you may find that your ear unblocks itself within days or a few hours. However, it is possible to self-treat a clogged ear at home. Attempting any of these DIY treatments carries a risk of damage to your ears. If in doubt, please contact a qualified medical professional for advice.

Why has my ear been clogged for days? The causes

What causes clogged ears? Just like you may get a stuffy nose, your ears can become blocked for several reasons. If your ear has been clogged for days, it could be due to several reasons:

  1. Earwax buildup: Excessive earwax can accumulate and block the ear canal, leading to a clogged sensation
  2. Eustachian tube dysfunction: The Eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and helps equalize pressure. If it becomes blocked, often due to allergies, colds, or sinus infections, it can cause a feeling of fullness or clogging in the ear
  3. Ear infection: An infection in the middle ear (otitis media) or outer ear (otitis externa) can cause swelling and fluid buildup, leading to a clogged feeling
  4. Water trapped in the ear: Water from swimming or showering can sometimes get trapped in the ear canal, leading to a clogged sensation
  5. Foreign object: Occasionally, a foreign object or insect can become lodged in the ear canal
  6. Hearing loss: Sudden hearing loss, which can sometimes feel like a clogged ear, might be due to various medical conditions and requires prompt medical attention

If the clogging persists, it’s important to see a healthcare professional. They can examine your ear, diagnose the cause, and recommend appropriate treatment, such as earwax removal, medication for infections, or other interventions based on the underlying cause.

My ear has been clogged for a month

If your ear has been clogged for a month, it's important to seek medical attention promptly. A clogged ear lasting for such an extended period could indicate an underlying issue that needs to be addressed by a healthcare professional. Possible causes for a persistently clogged ear include:

  • Chronic earwax buildup
  • Eustachian tube dysfunction
  • Ear infection
  • Other medical conditions affecting the ear

Only a healthcare provider can properly diagnose the cause of your clogged ear and recommend appropriate treatment. Avoid attempting to resolve the issue on your own, as this could potentially worsen the problem. Schedule an appointment with a doctor or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist as soon as possible for a thorough evaluation and treatment plan.

My right ear has been clogged for a week

If your right ear has been clogged for a week, it's essential to determine the underlying cause and seek appropriate treatment. Clogged ears can result from various issues, including earwax buildup, Eustachian tube dysfunction, sinus congestion, or ear infections. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Try Over-the-Counter Remedies: Consider using over-the-counter ear drops designed to soften earwax or relieve congestion. Follow the instructions carefully.
  2. Apply Warm Compresses: Applying a warm compress to the affected ear can help reduce discomfort and promote drainage.
  3. Avoid Inserting Objects: Refrain from inserting cotton swabs or other objects into your ear, as this can push the earwax deeper or cause injury.
  4. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids to help thin mucus and promote drainage.
  5. Consider Nasal Decongestants: If sinus congestion is contributing to the clogged ear, nasal decongestant sprays or oral decongestants may provide relief.
  6. Seek Medical Evaluation: If the clogging persists or is accompanied by pain, hearing loss, dizziness, or discharge, it's crucial to see a healthcare professional. They can examine your ear, identify the underlying cause, and recommend appropriate treatment, such as ear irrigation, medication, or further evaluation.
  7. Avoid Pressure Changes: Try to avoid sudden changes in air pressure, such as when flying or scuba diving, as these can exacerbate symptoms.

It's essential not to ignore persistent ear symptoms, as they could indicate a more serious issue requiring medical attention. Prompt evaluation and treatment can help prevent complications and promote recovery.

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How long can a clogged ear last?

The duration of a clogged ear can vary widely depending on the underlying cause. Here are some common scenarios and their typical durations:

  • Earwax buildup: If the clogging is due to earwax buildup, it may last until the wax is removed. Over-the-counter treatments or professional cleaning can resolve the issue relatively quickly, often within a few days to a week
  • Eustachian tube dysfunction: This condition, often caused by allergies, colds, or sinus infections, can cause a clogged sensation that lasts from a few days to a couple of weeks. Once the underlying cause resolves, the Eustachian tubes usually open up and the sensation of fullness diminishes
  • Ear infection: Middle ear infections (otitis media) or outer ear infections (otitis externa) can cause a clogged feeling that lasts as long as the infection persists. With appropriate treatment, symptoms typically improve within a few days to a week, though full resolution might take longer
  • Water trapped in the ear: Water trapped in the ear from swimming or showering usually resolves on its own within a few hours to a couple of days. Using over-the-counter drying drops can help speed up the process
  • Sudden sensorineural hearing loss: This is a medical emergency, and the clogged sensation can be permanent if not treated promptly. Immediate medical attention is necessary
  • Other causes: If the clogging is due to a more chronic issue, such as chronic sinusitis or a structural problem with the ear, the duration can be longer and require specific treatments to address the root cause
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How do you fix or clear a clogged ear?

So,  how to get rid of clogged ears? There are several different ear remedies for clogged ears to try at home. Some blocked ear remedies involve over-the-counter medications and products, but you can also use items you likely already have at home. But in order for it to work, the method you use should be determined by whether the problem is in your middle ear, behind the eardrum, or in your outer ear.

Valsalva maneuver

The Valsalva maneuver is a technique used to help relieve clogged ears caused by Eustachian tube dysfunction or pressure imbalances, such as those experienced during air travel or changes in altitude. Here's how to perform it:

  1. Close your mouth: Start by closing your mouth and pinching your nostrils closed with your fingers to prevent air from escaping.
  2. Take a deep breath: Take a deep breath and hold it in
  3. Exhale gently: While keeping your mouth and nostrils closed, gently exhale air through your nose as if you were trying to blow your nose without actually letting any air out. You should feel a slight pressure building up in your ears
  4. Release: After a few seconds of gentle pressure, release the pinch on your nostrils and allow your ears to equalize

It's important to perform the Valsalva maneuver gently to avoid causing any damage to your ears. If you experience pain or discomfort while performing the maneuver, stop immediately and try other methods to relieve your clogged ears. Additionally, if you have a history of ear or sinus problems, or if you're experiencing severe ear pain or hearing loss, it's best to consult with a healthcare professional before attempting the Valsalva maneuver or any other self-care techniques.m.

Oral decongestants and nasal sprays

 

Over the counter oral decongestants and nasal sprays can be particularly helpful when flying or if you have sinus or nasal congestion and need to drain your ear and nose. They are often more effective as a preventative treatment.

Mineral oil

 

Warm two or three tablespoons of mineral, olive or baby oil. Check the temperature on your wrist or the back of your hand to make sure it’s not too hot for your skin. Using an eyedropper, put one or two drops into your ear and keep your head at an angle for around 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat this 1-2 times a day for five days until the blockage has cleared.

Ear drops for clogged ears

 

Ear drops for clogged ears are a common remedy used to address various underlying causes of ear blockage. These drops typically contain ingredients that help soften earwax, reduce inflammation, or alleviate congestion, depending on the specific issue

Hydrogen peroxide

 

Put peroxide into a bowl of warm water. Using an eyedropper, drop one or two drops into your ear. Keep your head at an angle for around 15 seconds afterward. You will likely notice some fizzing, but keep your head at an angle until the fizzing stops.

Ear irrigation

 

Irrigating your ear is a remedy that will help once you’ve already started to clear the blockage. Once the earwax has softened, use irrigation to flush it out.

Warm compress or steam

 

Letting steam into your ear by taking a hot shower for five to ten minutes can expand the air in the middle ear space and force the eustachian tube open. Alternatively, try putting a warm compress over your ear.

Do ear candles help clogged ears?

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Ear candles, also known as ear coning, are often marketed as a remedy for removing earwax and relieving clogged ears. However, their effectiveness and safety are highly questionable.

Effectiveness:

  • There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that ear candles effectively remove earwax or help with clogged ears
  • Studies have shown that ear candling does not create a vacuum to pull out earwax. Any residue found after candling is usually from the candle itself, not from the ear

Safety:

  • Ear candling can be dangerous. Risks include burns to the ear, face, and scalp from the hot wax or candle flame
  • Candle wax can drip into the ear canal, causing further blockage or even injury to the eardrum
  • It can also lead to ear infections if the skin inside the ear is damaged

How to use nasal and ear spray for clogged ears

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When dealing with clogged ears, nasal and ear sprays can often provide relief. Nasal sprays help alleviate sinus congestion, while ear sprays can assist in softening earwax or delivering medication. Proper use of these sprays is essential for effective treatment. Below are guidelines on how to use nasal and ear sprays correctly:

Nasal Spray:

  • Preparation: Blow your nose and wash your hands
  • Application: Tilt head forward, insert nozzle into nostril, squeeze bottle, and breathe in gently
  • Frequency: Follow instructions on the bottle; typically short-term use

Ear Spray:

  • Preparation: Wash your hands and warm the bottle.
  • Application: Tilt head or lie down, straighten ear canal, spray near entrance (do not insert), wait, and wipe excess.
  • Frequency: Follow instructions provided; typically once or twice daily.

Ear medicine for clogged ears

Ear drops for wax removal

Over-the-counter ear drops containing carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide can help soften and loosen earwax, facilitating its removal.

Decongestant ear drops

Drops containing medications like pseudoephedrine or oxymetazoline can help reduce swelling in the Eustachian tube and alleviate congestion-related clogging.

Steroid ear Drops

If inflammation or swelling in the ear canal or Eustachian tube is the cause of clogged ears, steroid drops containing hydrocortisone or similar medications may be prescribed to mitigate inflammation.

Antibiotic ear drops

In cases of ear infections causing clogged ears, antibiotic drops containing medications such as neomycin, polymyxin B, or ciprofloxacin are used to treat the infection and relieve symptoms.

My ear is clogged and hurts really bad?

Severe ear pain accompanied by a clogged feeling can be caused by various factors, including ear infections, earwax buildup, Eustachian tube dysfunction, foreign objects in the ear canal, trauma, or other underlying conditions. Ear infections, in particular, are common culprits and can occur in the outer or middle ear due to bacterial or viral infections.

Earwax buildup can lead to discomfort if it becomes impacted against the eardrum, while dysfunction of the Eustachian tube may result in pressure imbalances and a sensation of fullness. It's essential to seek medical attention promptly for a thorough evaluation and appropriate treatment to alleviate symptoms and prevent complications.

Take care

A clogged ear is generally only a temporary problem and many people can treat it themselves using a clogged ear remedy at home. However, it’s important to remember that your ear is a very sensitive part of your body and you must never try to dig out earwax. If your ear remains clogged despite using different remedies or if you experience pain, hearing loss or tinnitus, contact your doctor as soon as possible. You may need to be prescribed ear drops or have wax manually removed.


While your clogged ear may feel uncomfortable, the good news is that it’s possible to tackle on your own. While there are several clogged ear remedies you can try, you may need medical intervention if they aren’t successful.

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