What can I do if My Ear is Clogged and I Can't Hear?
If you’re suddenly experiencing hearing loss from a clogged ear, there are several potential causes, side effects and at-home steps to take to help clear your clogged ear and return your hearing to normal. While some causes of clogged ears are simple to remedy at home, others may require an audiologist to diagnose the cause and suggest treatment to improve your hearing.
What are the causes of clogged ears?
Eustachian tube blockage. The eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the throat, can become blocked when fluid or mucus is trapped. Oftentimes, this occurs when experiencing seasonal allergies, a cold or sinus or ear infection. Swimmer’s ear is another condition that blocks eustachian tubes and is caused when bacteria or fungus grows in the ear canal. If the clogged ear is paired with ear pain, redness, fluid drainage or fever, be sure to contact your doctor since it is likely an ear infection that may need medical attention.
Hardened earwax or earwax impaction. Earwax is essential in protecting your ear canal by preventing dust or debris to enter your ear canal. One of the common ways that earwax creates a clogged ear is when a cotton swab is used to clean the ear. Instead of cleaning it, the earwax can be pushed further down, causing a clogged ear. At times, earwax can also become hardened and prevent the ear from hearing correctly. If you are also having dizziness or ringing in the ears, this is likely attributed to earwax impaction. Earwax impaction can lead to short-term hearing loss, but if not treated, it can also lead to otitis external.
High altitude. If you have ever driven over a mountain pass or been in an airplane, you know the feeling of your ears popping due to rapid elevation changes. When the air pressure outside your ear rapidly changes, it can cause the ear to become clogged or blocked. Other causes that are related to pressure changes include scuba diving and hiking in high altitudes that your body is not accustomed to. This is usually remedied quickly when your ears pressurize normally. This may result in slight short-lasting hearing loss, dizziness or a feeling of fullness in the ear.
Improving a clogged ear
Many times, a clogged ear can be remedied quickly at home with the following steps:
- Use over-the-counter allergy or sinus medication: Medications that contain decongestants or antihistamines can treat clogged ears associated with colds or allergies. Both nasal sprays and oral medications can prove beneficial for relieving ear pressure associated with these.
- Pop your ears using the Valsalva maneuver: The most common way to pop your ears is the plug your nose, blow air out while keeping your lips closed, essentially puffing your cheeks out and adding pressure to the inner ear. Do not too hard though, since this can create further problems for your eardrum. If you attempt once and it does not work to clear your clogged ear, do not reattempt it. This will only be beneficial for pressure changes, and will have no effect on your clogged ear if you’ve recently had a cold, allergies or have a potential earwax impaction.
- Swallow or chew gum: If you have fluid trapped in your middle ear or need to pop your ears from altitude changes and the associated pressure, one option is to chew gum or try swallowing repeatedly. You may notice your ear popping while you do this, and your hearing should then return to normal if this method is successful.
- Try a cool or warm compress: Put a washcloth in warm or cool water, wring it out and place it over the ear. The heat may help warm any blocked earwax and may provide some temporary pain relief.
When should you see an audiologist?
Keep in mind that the ear is a very sensitive area, and any hearing loss should be addressed as quickly as possible to remedy it. Audiologists are professionals who can help with clogged ears.
If you have tried these simple remedies and continue to experience a clogged ear and hearing loss in that ear, it’s time to make an appointment with an audiologist to diagnose the culprit. Audiologists have specialized tools to remedy an earwax impaction and can diagnose other potential reasons that your ear may be clogged.
If you are experiencing a clogged ear and associated hearing loss, you can learn more or schedule an appointment with Rametta Audiology & Hearing Aid Center at either of our offices.
- Tarentum office: 724-224-6811
- Vandergrift office: 724-567-7381