Clogged Ears

What is a Clogged Ear?

Clogged ears or plugged ears are temporary and mild condition. It can be terribly painful, irritating and can leave the ear sensitive.  This kind of condition can happen to any person regardless of age.  It happens when a massive build-up of fluid occurs inside the ear.

This is often felt by individuals who are suffering from colds due to allergies, swelling of the sinuses or viral infection. There are multiple factors that may cause the symptoms associated with clogged ear. Favorably, this can be treated with home remedies and over the counter medications, or with doctor’s prescription.

Mechanism of Ear Clogging

The ear is of the most sensitive part of the body. It has the function of hearing and as a sound circuit; and it aids in our balance. An ear is divided into three areas; the external or outer ear, middle ear and finally, the inner ear.

ear anatomy clogged ears picture

The different layers of the ears have to work together to achieve its optimum function. In cases of clogged ears, the natural function of the ears is being interfered.

Normally, the external or outer ear, facilitates in gathering the sound waves through the pinna. Sound waves will then travel to the ear canal and strike the eardrum, causing it to vibrate and making the middle ear to stir. When stapes or stirrup in the middle ears are stimulated by sound waves, it then continues to the oval window (inner ear), causing the inner ear fluid to move back and forth. The movement will send an electrical impulse to the brain, the brain then converts the impulses into meaning of sound waves heard.

In cases of clogged ears, the sound waves that will pass throughout the ear canal, ear drum to the middle and inner ear is altered; it could be due to many factors. If the source of clogged or blockage in the ear is not removed or corrected, this would result to conductive hearing loss.


A person who is experiencing a clogged ear or both ears may manifest different kinds of symptoms:

  • Immense pain in the ear, also known Otalgia
  • Loss of balance is noted when swelling and inflammation occur in the inner ear, where the vestibular system is located
  • A ringing sensation or Tinnitus
  • Conductive hearing loss
  • Dizziness

Causes of Clogged Ears

The ear boasts a complex mechanism. The blocked ear sensation is the outcome of the differential pressure between the middle ear and inner ear. The Eustachian tube known as the auditory canal is a tube that connects nasopharynx to the middle ear. The factors of the blockage could also be an impacted cerumen, excess fluid (water or cerumen), foreign objects and change in altitude.

Blocked ear happens when air is not able to push the Eustachian tube to equalize the pressure. This usually happens when there is an abrupt change in altitude where atmospheric pressure is not the same.

Ear wax keeps the ears clean and healthy. It restrains insects, tiny foreign objects and bacteria from entering the ear canal. The use of ear buds to clean the ear canal will push an accumulation of impacted cerumen into deeper parts and resulting to plug which will cause pain.

A fluid buildup in the ear from swimming in dirty waters, can cause bacteria accumulation and will result in swelling and inflammation of the ear canal.


Clogged ears have many causative agents; getting rid of them first will surely treat the problem. Taking the history and assessing the ears of the affected person will lead to a solution. In history taking, asking a complete past health history for any trauma or injury, surgery, colds and flu, any infection, constant traveling and scuba diving. These factors cause the ears to clog. Assessing the ears by inspection of the ear canal with the use of an otoscope, to visualize what possible foreign bodies cause the blockage. Once the reason of blockage is known, treatment is easy. Here are some tips to lessen or relieve the clogged ears:

  • If frequent travelling causes the blockage, keeping the mouth moving by chewing a gum or sucking a candy and blowing the nose while pinching the nostrils will help relieve it.
  • For the scuba divers that had experienced ear clog, bubbling up will help.
  • For sinusitis, nasal decongest and antihistamine
  • Antibiotics for presence of infection
  • Proper hygiene and lifestyle change can greatly prevent this condition.

A thorough understanding of the factors involved in detail and the awareness of the attainable treatment methods will be helpful for the person suffering from it.


There are a lot or remedies that can be found in your household or by simply performing it. Here are some effective home remedies:

  • Valsalva maneuver – This is performed by a closed mouth, closing one nostril and exhaling on the other nostril slowly. This will regulate air pressure on the ears.
  • Virgin Olive oil or mineral oil – When applied to ear buds, this will help soften ear wax to easily remove it.
  • Steam inhalation – The inhaling of steam will loosen up mucus, and in return will give relief in clogged ears.


  • How to Get Rid of a Clogged Ear? at


  • N. Cadwaladr, R. Jones, ‎N. Jones & ‎P. Sanders – (2001),The Rough Guide to Travel Health
  • Alan M. Rees – (1997),Consumer Health USA
  • Abhishek Kumar , (2002), Healing Through Ear Candling

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