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Clogged Ear - Symptoms, Treatment, Causes, Remedies

Updated on December 15, 2013

What is Clogged ear?

A clogged ear is a condition in which the Eustachian tube of the ear is obstructed. The obstruction in the Eustachian tube results in an uneven distribution of pressure in the middle ear when it could not open and close properly as brought by an obstruction.

Clogged ear can affect people from all age levels and is most common in children especially when they have colds. It is a painful condition that can be discomforting and can affect the quality of life. The condition can also bring in damage to the ear when there is an unequal distribution of pressure from the inside and outside environment of the eardrum.

The ear is an auditory organ that functions in receiving and sensing sound perception and equalize the balance to achieve a body position. The ear is made up of an outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. The outer ear is the external and visible part of the ear that is responsible for receiving sound. The inner ear is responsible for the balance as it is regulated to the end product of both the motion and the gravity. The incidence of clogged ears involved the Eustachian tube that is housed in the middle ear. The middle ear is a cavity filled with air. It is responsible for amplifying the sound pressure received by the outer ear and it is where the opening of the Eustachian tube is located. The Eustachian tube or also known as auditory tube connects the nasopharynx to the middle ear. It facilitates fluid drainage in the ear and regulates the pressure at a normal or balanced level. The Eustachian tube functions to keep an equal pressure between the middle ear and the pressure in the environment. The tube is normally close and opens a little to let the air pass through as its function of pressure equalizer. A dysfunction in the Eustachian tube can result to a negative pressure and fluid being stuck in the middle ear. The Eustachian tube is also responsible for draining mucus in the middle ear to keep also a balance pressure.


The incidence of a clogged ear can bestow various signs and symptoms depending on the severity and cause of the clog. The common symptoms however include the following:

  • Feeling of fullness inside the ear or ears.
  • Pain or ears that hurt which is due to a pressure buildup within the middle ear.
  • Tinnitus or a ringing or popping sensation in the ears.
  • Feeling of loss of balance
  • Bleeding in the ear
  • Ear discharge is notable
  • Slight dizziness
  • Hearing impairment is experienced
  • Onset of high fever in clogged ears due to infections.


The occurrence of clogged ear can be implicated on a lot of reasons and with symptoms depending on the antecedent. The etiology behind clogged ear is the inability of the Eustachian tube to open and close properly to regulate and equalize the pressure between the middle ear and the pressure in the atmosphere outside the ear.

The possible causes of clogged ears include the following:

Earwax buildup is one factor considered to cause a clogged ear. It is a yellowish and waxy substance that is secreted in the ear canal and is medically termed as cerumen. The earwax protects the ears from infections and any form of damage while it also lubricates and cleans the ear. Cleaning the ears with q-tips or cotton buds can sometimes probe the wax deeper into the ear canal which can cause the ears to clog. The absence of an earwax on the other hand can subject the ear to infection which can also clog the ears.

Sinus infection and allergy can cause the Eustachian tube to swell and keep it open. This will allow for pressure buildup and fluid collection in the middle ear that will later damage or cause infection in the ear which is potential for clogged ear.

Swimmer’s ear is also another potential for clogged ear. Clogged ear in this factor is often the result from swimming underwater which may allow for the water to enter the ear canal. Contaminated water may cause the infection and pressure buildup subsequently clogged ear.

Air travel can also cause the ears to clog when the airplane is ascending and reaching an altitude. The pressure buildup is due to cabin pressurization.

Acoustic neuroma is a rare benign growth in the acoustic nerve of the ears. This is potential for clogged ears as the growth can affect the level of pressure in the ear.

Other factors are also considered for the incidence of clogged ears. In children, clogged ears occur mostly when children are suffering from colds. Foreign objects unintentionally inserted through the ear are also potential for clogged ear and ear infection which can give severe earache.


Clogged ears usually resolve on its own without the need for treatment. Simple exercises can facilitate opening the Eustachian tube such as chewing gum and yawning. Treatment on the other hand is given either to relieve the symptoms or treat the underlying condition that triggered the eras to clog. Over-the-counter pain reliever can be given to reduce the pain. Clogged ears due to allergies are especially given with a steroid or antihistamine medication to ward off the allergic reaction. Infections resulting to clogged ears are prescribed with antibiotics depending on the type of causative agent. Surgery may also be recommended to unclog the Eustachian tube which is done with a small incision in the eardrum to relieve the pressure buildup and drain fluid.


Remedies can help relieve the pressure buildup in the ear and to reduce the pain caused by the clogged ears.

  • Chewing a gum or yawning can help to open the Eustachian tube and release some pressure to reduce the buildup in the ears.
  • Earwax that clogging the ears can be removed with the use of peroxide to soften the wax.
  • A hot compress application can relieve the pressure and soften the wax that is clogging the ears.

A lot of remedies can help in managing clogged ears. It is important that a visit to a doctor be done prior to any remedies or treatments. Clogged ears should not be neglected as prolonging the condition will only worsen the infection or may lead to damage in the hearing ability which can become permanent.


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      Laura 3 years ago

      I've tried cleaning my ear, and putting heat on it but it hasn't worked and this is getting annoying. I need things that will work!!