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Ear Blockage: Everything You Need To Know By Best ENT Doctor

ear infection treating by ent specialist
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What do you mean by ear blockage?

When you start hearing less and when loud voices also start sounding muffled, your ears might be clogged or plugged up. Multiple reasons can lead to ear blockage. Common ear wax is the primary reason for the blockage, but sometimes there could be nothing in your ear canal and the blockage still exists.

Let us understand the various causes of ear blockage in the next segment.

What are the reasons behind ear blockage?

While the reasons are not always apparent, the most common causes behind ear blockage are:

Our ear’s self-protective measure is earwax. The stickiness of ear wax acts as a lubricant for the middle ear canal, traps dirt & pollutants, and helps clean out the ear canal like a natural cleaning agent when it falls off the ear by itself. But when the ear wax becomes impacted, it directly affects your hearing ability.

How to know if your blockage is due to impacted ear wax? Here are the symptoms

  • The ear feels clogged.
  • There is a sudden ache in the middle ear.
  • You experience partial hearing loss.
  • Your ears start ringing suddenly.
  • Your ears itch or give out a smelly discharge.
  • You are suffering from a cough and cold.
  • You are a swimmer and your ears frequently feel blocked.

Never try to poke your ear or extract wax with a cotton swab, peroxide or baby oil. This will make matters worse and might end up affecting your eardrums.

When the fluid gets stuck in the middle ear it can lead to ear blockage. This can also happen in several ways. Such as:

  • You may have fluid build-up behind the eardrum. Although this can clear on its own, if you notice severe pain build-up, fluid discharge or any other discomfort for more than 24 hours, immediately seek medical intervention.
  • If earwax is not properly formed, then there is a higher chance of fluid accumulation in the middle ear. Impacted earwax is not sticky and hence does not protect the ear.
  • Moreover, the fluid trapped inside the ear may lead to bacterial or fungal infections which can cause a lot of pain.

A stuffy nose, blocked ears and tenderness on the face are the outcomes of sinus pressure. These symptoms can also lead up to a temporary hearing loss. This is because the sinus is located beside the ear canal. So when the sinus cavity experiences inflammation, it results in the swelling of Eustachian tubes closing the connection between your throat and your ear. This makes clogged ears feel much worse. But if the inflammation grows more severe it can lead to temporary hearing loss.

Barotrauma or aeroplane ear condition is another cause of ear blockage. When you are on a flight, your ears cannot properly adjust to the changing air pressure.

Noise is the biggest cause of hearing loss in people. Exposure to loud noises, explosions and blasts can lead to people experiencing blocked ears.

Ear blockage can be due to various other underlying health causes also. Such as anxiety or panic disorder. This can cause fullness, pressure and pain in the ears due to some triggering event. During these episodes, You have a constant urge to pop your ears to relieve the stress and feel better.

The most severe cause is linked to Meniere’s disease. This inner ear condition is often accompanied by tinnitus, dizziness and hearing loss. This makes our bodies lose their balance over time.

Trauma or injury to the head can cause ringing and aural fullness of the ear. This makes you feel as if your ears won’t ever pop.

Sometimes children put small things in their ears which can cause blockage. An insect or worm or any foreign object inside the ear can also create problems.

How to treat earwax blockage at home?

Unclogging your ears at home is a welcome option for all of us since the experience of a clogged ear can be frustrating. However, we need to understand what is good or bad in terms of home remedies that will not impact the overall well-being of our ears.

  • What not to do: Any invasive means of cleaning is not advisable.
    • Avoid using Instagram-friendly ear candling.
    • Avoid using a cotton swab as it tends to get left behind in the ear canal.
    • If you use hearing aids or headphones more then please ensure you air your ears regularly.
    • Avoid using bobby pins or matchsticks to clean the ear canal.
  • What to do: Find only the minimally invasive means of cleaning and maintaining the hygiene of your ears.

Now let us understand the various treatment options available to us in case of an earwax blockage.

  • Softening the ear wax build-up: When earwax is packed hard and packed in the ear canal putting 2-3 drops of wax softener like baby oil, glycerine or mineral oil can help immensely. Follow this up with extraction using a normal syringe without the needle.
  • Valsalva manoeuvre: This especially helps with aeroplane ears. Simply take a deep breath and pinch your nostrils shut with your index finger and thumb. Close your mouth, and exhale.
  • Passive techniques: Activities to open eustachian tubes such as yawning, chewing gum, gulping frequently, saltwater gargling and drinking water may ease ear clogging.
  • Earplugs: These help prevent the aeroplane ear and there are types that swimmers use to avoid blockage due to fluids and the swimmer’s ear. They help maintain the pressure and prevent fluid buildup. However in either case it is not foolproof.
  • Steam or hot shower: If your blockage is due to a cold or infection, this helps ease out your sinus and can almost pop open your blockage indicating that your condition is also improving. If you can’t do these then a warm compress also helps.

In addition to these, you can always use the humble hair dryer to easily dry out all the water after a bath and keep the ear dry.

When should you see a doctor?

The ears are very delicate parts of our body. Blocked ears can make you very distracted from your daily work. However, in case this comes along with symptoms like fever, pain or earache, do not waste time seeking medical help.

As a preventive measure one can always get their ears assessed by a specialist who will evaluate their hearing to set a good benchmark for your healthcare provider to use in an emergency.

To summarise, a blocked ear or ears can be a huge inconvenience, and worse, a health risk. When a blockage happens out of the blue, you are left preoccupied with trying to relieve yourself of it. To help you in the long run, consult a professional ENT specialist who will be able to regularly keep your ears clean and monitor your ears for any kind of problems. At the CK Birla Hospital, we urge all our patients to get into the habit of regular checkups to stay ahead of any kind of health hazards. Think you might want to start now? Then walk in or book an appointment here with leading ENT Doctor Dr Vijay Verma.

FAQ:

Why is one ear blocked?

The ear blockage depends on a lot of conditions. But primarily the ear with more accumulated ear wax will have a greater tendency to get clogged or blocked. This can also be due to the existence of a fungal or bacterial infection in the middle ear. The ENT will usually clean out the infection through professional ear drainage and prescribe a course of antibiotics to overcome the infection.

Can a blocked ear be serious?

Sometimes in very rare cases, a blocked ear may be due to a benign growth inside the middle ear. This might take a serious turn if the benign growth goes rogue. A blocked ear can also indicate harm and cuts to the ear canal or the ear drums. Since the area of the ear is very small a blockage, though usually harmless, must be given due importance if it does not disappear on its own.

What is a natural remedy for clogged ears?

Passive techniques and activities to open up your eustachian tubes such as yawning, chewing gum, gulping frequently, saltwater gargling and drinking water may ease ear clogging naturally.
Apart from this, you can always take steam with essential oils like peppermint or tea tree which will help ease out the blockage.

Can a blocked ear resolve itself?

Sometimes an ear blockage might be due to an air pocket stuck between ear wax. Sometimes it tends to resolve on its own without any intervention. A blocked ear can last a few minutes to even months depending on the underlying cause.

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