Clogged Ears and How to Relieve Them

Plugged ears can be caused by a few different reasons. Causes include fluid in the ear, changes in atmospheric pressure, excess earwax, or even a small object blocking the eardrum. Each cause has a different treatment, and it is important to obtain professional advice.

This article details some possible reasons why your ears may feel clogged. It also explains some common treatment options.

fluid in the ear

A blocked ear can be the result of a swollen auditory tube, also known as Eustachian tube tube. This tube in the ear usually equalizes pressure in the middle ear.

But sometimes, the tube can become blocked and fluid can get trapped in the middle ear.


Some health conditions can cause a blockage in the Eustachian tube. A common cause is congestion, such as a severe cold or allergies. Swollen structures such as tonsils, adenoids, and turbinates can also block the tubes.

Fluid in the ear is more common in children because their Eustachian tube is narrower and naturally more horizontal than that of adults.

anatomy of the ear


Fluid in the ear usually causes little or no symptoms. Sometimes the fluid in your ear can cause your ear to feel blocked, and in severe cases, it can cause ear pain.

Clogged ears can cause hearing loss. If young children are not diagnosed or treated, speech delays can result.


If you or your child don’t have any troubling symptoms or risk of complications, your healthcare provider may monitor the fluid every three to six months to see if it goes away on its own.

sometimes, a myringotomy and tympanostomy Tube placement may be required. This is a common procedure done with anesthesia.

During surgery, a small hole is made in the eardrum and a small tube is inserted into the eardrum to keep it open. The tube allows fluid to drain. The hole in the eardrum will heal on its own within a few days, and the duct will fall off on its own after about a year.

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Fluid in the ear can cause ear pressure and pain, which can lead to more serious problems if left untreated and persists. This is especially true in children, who are at risk of hearing loss and speech delay in severe cases. If you have concerns about earplugs, please contact your healthcare provider.

Altitude change

Rapid pressure changes in the environment can cause ear blockages. This can affect the Eustachian tube and cause what is called a barotrauma.

Along with the eardrum, the Eustachian tube helps balance the pressure between the middle and outer ears. That’s why your ears feel clogged when you’re driving up a steep hill, taking off on a plane, or scuba diving. Extreme pressure changes can lead to ear injuries, such as a ruptured eardrum, if precautions are not taken.

The best way to prevent this and help protect your ears from altitude changes is to swallow, chew, or yawn frequently. This opens your Eustachian tube, allowing outside air to enter your ear.

Discover what to do when your ears don’t ring

You may also benefit from using an over-the-counter decongestant if you typically have difficulty clearing your ears during altitude changes. This helps unblock the ear tube.

  • If you have allergies, use your allergy medication at the start of the flight.
  • Take a decongestant one hour before your flight begins to land.

If you develop ear pain, discharge from your ear, or severe hearing loss, you should see a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Excessive earwax

Sometimes, blocked ears can be caused by too much earwax. This is uncommon as the ear usually has its own built-in cleaning system. Some people may develop too much earwax or be unable to remove it effectively. This problem usually occurs without a known cause.

Don’t try to remove excess earwax yourself. Your healthcare professional can use special tools to remove it to avoid rupturing the eardrum or pushing the wax further into your ear.

Your clinician may use one of several methods to remove earwax.

They include:

  • rinse ears with water
  • Scoop out earwax with a curette or curette tool earwax spoon
  • Use ear drops that dissolve earwax

foreign body

It’s not uncommon for young children to put things in their ears. This may be out of curiosity or the guts of a friend, as often happens with a stuffy nose with a foreign body.

If the child is not old enough to tell you how they are feeling, some clues include constantly rubbing their ears and making faces. This does not cause fever or cold symptoms unless the object is in the ear long enough to cause an infection.

You can use a flashlight to see, but you shouldn’t try to remove the item yourself. Never insert any sharp object into the ear in an attempt to remove any object.

The best thing to do is to go to the pediatrician’s office. They have special tools that can be used to better see the object and remove it safely.

If you notice any fluid coming out of the ear or smell bad, your child needs immediate medical attention.


Common causes of a blocked ear include fluid in the ear, excess earwax buildup, altitude changes while flying or driving, and foreign objects in the ear. Most of the time, these problems are easy to diagnose and treat.

But persistent problems in young children can lead to infections, hearing loss, and even delayed speech. And you shouldn’t put anything in your ear to try and remove earwax or foreign objects. Consult a healthcare provider for safe treatment instead.

VigorTip words

Having your ears feel clogged all the time can be annoying. To prevent long-term complications, it is important that treatment is appropriate for the condition. Be sure to see your healthcare provider if you experience pain and hear pops, see fluid draining from your ear, or have changes in your hearing or balance.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can you unclog your ears?

    Sometimes you can clear your ears by swallowing, chewing, or yawning. Decongestants or antihistamines may help if you have a cold or allergies. If you have excess wax or foreign body in your ear, your doctor can safely remove it using special tools.

  • How long can ear blockages last?

    It depends on the reason. If your ears are blocked when you are stressed on the plane, your ears may return to normal shortly after landing. If your ears are clogged with fluid, sometimes it can take up to three months for your ears to clear.

  • When should I see a doctor for blocked ears?

    If your ears are still blocked after a week, talk to your doctor. Also make an appointment if you have other symptoms, such as pain, fever, or fluid from your ears.