Having clogged ears can be a very unpleasant experience, but there are a few home remedies that can help ease your symptoms.
This article explains a few easy remedial tactics that you can try on your clogged ears.
Your ears are a crucial organ, helping you to interpret sound waves for hearing and aiding the maintenance of balance in the body. However, the same ear canal that allows for the influx of sound waves allows for the outflow of earwax, and when it becomes clogged or ‘bunged up,’ things can be thrown off-kilter.
Whether this clogging occurs as a result of causes outside or inside the ear, it can be very uncomfortable, affect your hearing, and disturb your sense of balance.
How Do You Know if You Have a Clogged Ear?
The first thing you are likely to experience if you have a clogged ear is some sort of discomfort, pain, a 'bunged up' or blocked sensation, or just the feeling that something is wrong with your ear.
Symptoms a clogged ear also include:
- Hearing loss
- Itchiness in or around the ear
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Vertigo (a spinning feeling)
These symptoms are often caused by an earwax build-up, but can also have other causes. If they persevere for more than ten days, it is important to see a doctor to rule out any underlying conditions, diseases, or infections. If you have hearing loss that develops suddenly, see a doctor as soon as possible.
You can sometimes experience a blocked ear due to an allergy or infection. This might result in a few of the following symptoms:
- A sore throat
- A fever (with infections)
When you have a cold, flu, or period of irritation due to allergies, it is not uncommon to experience a clogged ear. Luckily, the symptoms usually subside as your body recovers and you start to feel better.
Although you might need medication to treat your clogged ear or end up needing to see a doctor, there are loads of effective home remedies that you can try immediately.
Quick treatment is still important even though you might think a clogged ear is a relatively minor issue. This is because even if your clogged ear isn’t caused by an infection, an untreated blockage can lead to an infection, which then requires further treatment.
Before you set about trying to unclog your ears, it’s incredibly useful to determine if your problem concerns the middle ear, behind the eardrum, or the outer ear.
This is because different remedies work for different problems and areas of concern.
Home Remedies for a Clogged Middle Ear
If you have a clogged middle ear, there are a few things you can try.
If the Valsalva maneuver doesn’t sound familiar, ‘popping your ears’ probably does - they mean the same thing.
If you experience fullness or pressure in your ears and potentially also ear pain, dizziness, and muffled hearing, your eustachian tubes, running between your middle ear and the back of your nose, might be obstructed.
When there are pressure changes (such as when you’re moving between altitudes in an airplane) doing the Valsalva maneuver helps to open the eustachian tubes.
You can do this easily yourself by plugging your nose (squeezing it with your fingers) and then blowing out while keeping your lips closed (puffing out your cheeks).
Blow firmly but not too hard, as this can cause problems with your eardrum. If it doesn’t help you can try again, adjusting your technique slightly each time. You’ll know if it has worked because you’ll hear a ‘popping’ noise.
Swallowing, yawning, and chewing gum can also help to open your eustachian tubes in a similar way. Try these if you’re having no luck with the Valsalva maneuver.
Do keep in mind, however, that this will not correct conditions of excess fluid in the inner ear.
Nasal spray or oral decongestants
Although they are more useful as a preventative treatment when you’re flying or if you have nasal or sinus congestion, nasal spray and oral decongestants can help to reduce your ‘clogged up’ sensations.
You might already have these in your medicine cupboard. If not, they are available Over-the-Counter (OTC).
Home Remedies for a Clogged Outer Ear
If you have a clogged outer ear there are also a few remedies that you can try.
Homemade Ear Drops
You might find that dripping mineral, olive, or baby oil into your clogged ear helps you relieve your symptoms.
All you have to do is take two to three tablespoons of your oil of choice warmed up. Be careful it isn’t too hot or this will be very bad news. Check whether it causes irritation by testing it carefully on your skin. Using an eyedropper drip one to two drops into your problem ear. Remember to keep your head tilted for 10 to 15 seconds to ensure it goes down.
The blockage might not get better immediately, so you can do this a few times a day for up to five days until it clears.
If you’ve softened the earwax blockage, simple home-performed ear irrigation can help to flush it out.
Don't do this if you have an active infection in your ear canal. Ear irrigation also carries the risk of causing an ear infection or a perforated eardrum.
Home Remedies if Your Clogged Ears Are Due to Sickness or Allergies
If your clogged ears are due to sickness or allergies, mineral and essential oils might be helpful as they can have antibiotic, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, and peppermint oil can all be inhaled as steam or placed near the nose so you can easily breathe in the vapors. Research how each oil should be used before trying this as they are still dangerous if used incorrectly.
You can try placing a warm compress over your ear or take a steamy shower to open up your nasal passages and drain your ears of mucus.
Gargle Salt Water
Gargling salt water can also help to reduce mucus in your ears and nose.
Simply add a little salt to some water and mix until dissolved. Gargle the mixture for a few seconds and then spit it out.
When to See a Doctor
Despite there being many excellent home remedies for clogged ears, you should be prepared to see a medical professional if things don't get better.
Some causes such as sinus infections and middle ear infections can be treated with prescriptions, which will probably be quicker and more effective than trying home remedies for days on end.
Obviously, it’s very difficult to tell what’s causing your symptoms yourself, but noting your symptoms can help here.
The following symptoms indicate that you should see your doctor:
- Hearing loss
- Ear pain
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Blockage refusing to clear on its own
- Blockage can’t be unclogged
These don't necessarily mean that something serious is going on, but they do suggest you could benefit from a once over from your physician.
To learn more about hearing health, see our other blog articles.
The information in this guide has been written using the following reliable sources: