5 Reasons Your Ears Feel Clogged

Everyone experiences it at some point – that muffled sound that comes from a clogged ear. It feels and sounds similar to when you put your hands over your ears, but as far as you can tell, nothing is blocking your ear canals, so what gives?

Generally speaking, there are five common reasons for clogged ears:

  • Changes in altitude
  • Fluid in the ear
  • Impacted earwax
  • Noise damage
  • Sinus pressure

Changes in Altitude

When you experience a sudden change in altitude, such as during a plane takeoff, the air pressure in your body differs from the environmental air pressure. This creates a feeling of pressure in the ear. Yawning or swallowing should equalize air pressure by opening the Eustachian tubes, which connect the ear to the throat. 

Fluid in the Ear

Commonly known as swimmer’s ear, fluid can be trapped in the external ear canal after swimming, bathing, or even exposure to a moist environment. Usually, this fluid drains within a day. If symptoms persist, or if you experience severe ear pain or discharge, see a licensed hearing care professional. You may have an external ear infection.

Looking for a clogged ear remedy for swimmer’s ear? Try these suggestions:

  • Tilt your head sideways and gently pull on your earlobe.
  • Yawn, chew or move your jaw to help move fluid out of the ear.

Impacted Ear Wax

Impacted ear wax can affect your hearing and is a common cause of temporary hearing loss. While many clogged ear remedies claim to drain the ear of excess wax, be careful: Some “traditional” methods of cleaning the ear increase your risk of ear infections, injury, and even permanent hearing loss. 

The best remedy for impacted ear wax is an appointment with your doctor or licensed hearing care professional who can remove wax buildup safely.

Noise Damage

If you've ever left a loud workplace, concert, or club with clogged ears, muffled hearing, and a ringing in your ears, you’ve experienced noise-induced hearing loss. Listening to music or television through earbuds at high volume can also expose you to ear-damaging noise levels.

While acute symptoms typically resolve within 48 hours, exposure to loud noises can permanently impair your hearing. The best-clogged ear remedy for noise exposure is to avoid exposure to the sounds of 85 decibels or more. When this isn’t possible, wearing protective hearing devices and taking breaks from noise exposure are the next best solutions. 

Sinus Pressure

Allergies, colds, and other nasal infections can cause swelling in the sinus cavities next to your ear canals. This causes the Eustachian tubes to swell, placing a negative pressure on the eardrum. The result is the pain, temporary hearing loss, and that clogged ear sensation so often felt when you have the sniffles. 

In most cases, sinus pressure is a temporary concern, and hearing returns to normal when congestion ends. People with allergies often find relief with antihistamines or by avoiding the allergen. 

If the sensation of clogged ears persists, or if you experience accompanying pain or sudden hearing loss, see a doctor. Many conditions can cause such symptoms, and not all of them can be cured with a clogged ear remedy.

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