What is a Blocked Ear?

A blocked ear can be an uncomfortable and sometimes painful condition that affects your hearing and overall ear health. At the core of this issue is the eustachian (yoo-stay-shun) tube, a small passage that runs from your middle ear to the back of your nose. Under normal circumstances, this tube remains closed and only opens when you swallow or yawn, allowing air to flow into the middle ear and equalise pressure.

When the eustachian tube does not function correctly, it can lead to reduced air pressure in the middle ear. This causes the eardrum to retract inward, creating a sensation of blockage, ear pain, and possibly muffled hearing.

What Causes Blocked Ears?

Several factors can contribute to the dysfunction of the eustachian tube, leading to a blocked ear:

  • Blocked Nose: The most common cause is a blocked nose, which can close the entrance to the eustachian tube. This often occurs during a cold but can also result from allergies.
  • Glue Ear: This condition also known as ‘otitis media with effusion’, involves fluid accumulation in the middle ear, leading to blockage.
  • Large Adenoids: Enlarged tissue at the back of the nose and throat can obstruct the eustachian tube, especially in children.
  • Smoking: Smoking can impair the function of the eustachian tube.
  • Air Travel and Scuba Diving: Both activities can exacerbate eustachian tube dysfunction, particularly if you have a cold.

How Are Blocked Ears Treated?

If you experience symptoms of eustachian tube dysfunction, several strategies might help alleviate the discomfort:

  • Valsalva Maneuver: Try closing your mouth, pinching your nose shut, and gently blowing into your nose. This maneuver can sometimes pop your ears and relieve the pressure.
  • Nasal Decongestant Spray: Using a nasal decongestant spray for five to seven days can help if the blockage is due to a cold.
  • Steroid Nasal Spray: A longer-term solution, especially if allergies are involved, can be a steroid nasal spray.
  • Consult a Doctor: If symptoms persist, it’s essential to see a doctor. Other conditions, such as earwax buildup or infections, might be causing the pain.

Remedies for Plugged Ears After a Cold

If your ears feel plugged following a cold, the eustachian tubes may be blocked due to swelling. Here are some remedies you can try:

  • Swallowing, Yawning, or Chewing Gum: These actions can help open the eustachian tubes and relieve the pressure.
  • Valsalva Maneuver: As mentioned earlier, gently blowing with your nose pinched shut can help pop your ears.
  • Nasal Decongestants: These can be used for short-term relief, usually not more than a few days.
  • Topical Nasal Steroids: Particularly beneficial for those with allergies, these can reduce inflammation and help clear the tubes.
  • Ventilation Tubes: In severe cases, doctors might recommend ventilation tubes to drain fluid and relieve pressure.

If your symptoms are severe or persist for more than two weeks, it’s crucial to contact your healthcare provider to rule out more serious conditions.

Blocked ears can be a minor inconvenience or a sign of a more significant issue. Understanding the causes and available treatments can help you manage this condition effectively and seek appropriate medical advice when necessary.

However, if you believe earwax buildup is causing your ear blockage, visit our ear cleaning clinic today for a thorough microsuction procedure. Our expert ear hygienists are ready to help you regain clarity and comfort with your hearing. Book your appointment to experience the difference of professional ear care.


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