Ear feels blocked? Waking up with blocked ears? Autumn and Winter are beautiful seasons, but with that comes a chill in the air and you are naturally more prone to allergy and ear troubles during the colder months. For instance, you might have blocked ears without any pain or discomfort.
It can still become an annoyance when sound becomes muffled and distorted and you are left feeling like you are straining to hear. Blocked ears are also referred to as clogged ears, plugged ears and stuffy ears.
Let's look at some of the common causes & the main symptoms of blocked ears.
Whether it is your left or right - your ears might unblock themselves on their own over a course of a few days, but there are other options to consider that can relieve blocked ears that you can do at home.
Ear blockages can be rather a serious annoyance with scope to be a genuine health risk, so when a blockage does appear (especially out of the blue) it's not always due to earwax.
You might have many questions like "why is my ear blocked?", "What are the causes of blocked ear" and "are blocked ears treatable?". However, before treating blocked ears it is useful to educate yourself on the causes and how we can prevent this in the future.
What are we covering in this blocked ears article?
This type of blockage is one of the main causes of a blocked ear and this tube attaches your middle ear to your throat. You might already know, but this tube is where fluid or mucus goes from your ear to the back of your throat - which you then swallow.
So when your Eustachian tube is blocked the fluid can't naturally flow and can become trapped in your middle ear and then cause blockage to your ear. Blocked ears usually come hand in hand with various infections like sinusitis (sinus pressure).
There are other ailments of this that are brought on by infection, such as coughing, runny nose, sneezing, blocked ears and sore throat. It is important to unblock your ears as soon as you can, as prolonged trapped fluid in your ear can cause ear infections - which is a build-up of bacteria or a viral infection that reaches your middle ear.
Other Ear Infection Triggers
Blocked ears after swimming? If you are a keen swimmer, you probably know that swimming can cause ear infections if you don't dry your ears properly afterward, as water can stay in your ears. This is also known as 'swimmer's ear' or Otitis Externa, where bad bacteria and fungus can develop over time. This is also called outer-ear infection.
Middle Ear Infection or Otitis Media
Otitis media is an infection of the middle ear that results in inflammation and also a build-up of fluid behind your eardrum. Although anyone can get a middle ear infection, children are more prone to this type - especially babies and toddlers.
There are some signs to look out for which can indicate you have an ear infection. These are fever, fluid leaking from your ears, ear pain and redness. If you have used a cotton swab to try and unclog any blockages beforehand, this might be the reason why you are now experiencing pain.
Most of the time plugged ears are caused by Eustachian Tube Dysfunction, but sometimes someone who complains of a continual ear-plugging sensation and increased sensitivity to sound can mean you have hyperacusis.
However, the main causes of hyperacusis are loud noise exposure and ageing, but if you have a blocked ear feeling and you find yourself more sensitive to noise - you need to seek medical help as soon as you can to get a diagnosis and be administered the right treatment if needed.
Ears Blocked With Wax & Ringing
Your earwax does a great job of protecting your ears by naturally cleansing your ear canal so that it stops anything from entering your ears. It is usually soft, but it can become hard and therefore block your ears over time.
Ears feel clogged and ringing? If you are experiencing dizziness, ringing in the ear or earache you might have hardened wax that's blocking your ear. Blocked ear wax needs to be treated immediately, as it can cause serious damage. This type of buildup can also limit your hearing abilities and can if left untreated for a long period of time, cause permanent hearing loss.
The main symptoms of earwax buildup are usually earache, hearing problems, blocked ear feeling, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), coughing or discharge from the ear.
Altitude or Barotrauma (Aeroplane Ear)
You can also develop temporary ear blockage troubles when you are walking or driving up a mountain, flying or scuba diving. This is because when you experience a quick shift in air pressure outside your body - your ears can become blocked or feel clogged up.
Let me explain, your Eustachian tube has many roles and one is to stabilise the pressure in your middle ear. As altitude grows it sometimes can't stablise pressure successfully and you can then feel the increased air pressure in your ears giving you a blocked ear feeling.
Unfortunately, high altitude conditions can sometimes get too much for the rest of your body to cope with and you can experience sickness, shortness of breath and headaches.
Exposure to Loud Sounds
Your ear can feel blocked or can ring after you've experienced an evening of loud live music. This should clear within two days.
This is a benign ear growth on the cranial nerve leading from your inner ear to your brain. These growths are generally quite slow to develop and not big, but even though they are small they can still inflict pressure on the nerves in your inner ear. This usually results in a blocked ear, ringing in the ear and hearing loss.
Other less common causes of blocked ear are anxiety, Meniere's disease and other balance disorders.
Ear Drops for Blocked Ear
Try two to three drops of virgin olive oil in the ear(s) that is blocked or baby oil into your ears to try and soften your earwax and dislodge any blockage. Remember to tilt your head for a minute or so after you have put the drops in so your ears have a chance to flush out anything.
Blocked Ears Hayfever Medication
There are a few blocked ear treatments out on the market today. You can source over-the-counter remedies that can help un-clog your ears due to sinus troubles, colds or common allergies. These are normally decongestants like antihistamines - always check with your pharmacy on the best solution for you with your health history in mind.
Use Steam - A common blocked ears remedy you can do at home
Inhaling steam can sometimes help soften excess mucus in your ears. This could be sitting in your bathroom with your shower on extra hot or pouring hot water into a bowl, putting your head over the top and covering it with a towel. Placing hot face clothes over your ears can sometimes help loosen ear mucus too.
Blocked Ears Treatment
At the end of the day it is always best to contact a professional - either through your local NHS clinic or private practice - to diagnose the cause of your ear blockage. Do not attempt to try any other at-home remedy beyond what we have suggested you can do safely.
Blocked Ears NHS
If you have tried home remedies or any of the advice we have talked about in this article and you still have blocked ears or a build-up of wax - you must arrange to see your local GP who will check your ears and then refer you to your ENT department if necessary.
Are blocked ears painful?
If you have an Eustachian tube blockage your doctor might prescribe antibiotics, decongestants or anti-fungal medication. You might also be recommended a course of pain relief to accompany your prescribed medication, as often you can experience pain with blocked ears. However, if you are diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, you might be referred for surgery.
Blocked Ears COVID
Blocked ears after COVID? Due to COVID being a respiratory virus this means it can cause congestion, ear pain and sinus pressure - but it is important to remember these are not common symptoms of the virus.
Are blocked ears sign of COVID 19?
COVID-19 generally causes fever, chills, cough, sore throat and fatigue. On the other hand, the Delta variant has been known to cause more common cold symptoms and that would include more earaches.
Your local audiologist can help you with your blocked ears and will give you more information on blocked ears after cold, blocked ears and headache, blocked ears and dizziness, blocked ears and sinus troubles and more symptoms.
If you have blocked ears and would like advice on how to clear a blocked ear and the best treatment with a local audiologist - our consultations can be performed at one of our clinics or as a home visit and will take around 10 to 15 minutes per ear. We offer traditional syringing, the more popular micro-suction, or even endoscopic suction. The cost is from £40 for one ear or £60 if both ears need doing.
If you would like to speak to us about your worries regarding blocked ears, if you'd like to book an appointment or would like to speak to an audiologist about your hearing healthcare going forward - then please call us on 0800 567 7621
Read Next: Earwax - The good & The Bad
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