Why are my ears blocked?

Blocked ears can be incredibly uncomfortable. More often than not this type of condition is nothing serious but it’s still difficult to live with. You may not be able to hear properly and you may experience pain and discomfort that can make every day life feel hard. You may be able to get treatment for a blocked ear or this may resolve on its own – it will depend on what is causing the blockage.

What causes blocked ears?

  • Issues with the Eustachian tubes. The Eustachian tube is what connects your middle ear to your throat, allowing fluid and mucus to move away from the ear to the throat where it can be swallowed. If a blockage occurs here then mucus and fluid get stuck – this often happens if you have an ear infection, sinusitis or a cold and manifests as sneezing, a sore throat and a runny nose. It can also occur as a result of swimming when water remains in the ear and bacteria or fungus grow as a result.
  • A build up of ear wax. Wax is essential to our ears as it protects ear canals, stopping debris from getting into the ear and cleansing the area. However, if it hardens then it can cause an ear blockage that is often accompanied by a ringing in the ears, dizziness and ear ache.
  • Changes in altitude. The Eustachian tube is also responsible for equalising pressure in the middle ear but if you are moving into higher altitudes, such as up a mountain or even scuba diving then this may not happen and ears can feel blocked. Blocked ears as a result of changes in altitude are usually only temporary.
  • Acoustic neuroma. This is a type of tumour that normally grows on the cranial nerve between the inner ear and the brain. It is usually benign but as it grows may put pressure on inner ear nerves and cause a blocked feeling.

Do you need to see a doctor?

There are a number of home remedies that you can try for blocked ears but if these don’t work then you’ll need to make an appointment with a doctor. These are some of the home remedies that are often the most successful:

  • Inhaling steam. One of the easiest ways to do this is simply turn on a hot shower and sit in the room for 10-15 minutes inhaling the steam.
  • Use a warm flannel. You can place this over the ear and it will have much the same effect as the steam – loosening fluid.
  • Get some eardrops. If the issue is wax then there are a number of eardrops treatments you can buy to help resolve this.
  • The Valsalva manoeuvre. This something you can do for yourself to help open up Eustachian tubes. Breathe in and pinch your nose, keep your mouth shut and gently try to exhale through your nose. You should feel a pop in each ear as your Eustachian tubes open (don’t do this too forcefully or you may damage your eardrum).

Blocked ears don’t have to be a condition that you live with – there are some simple ways that you can help yourself and you also have the option of a doctor.

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About Us

The Harley Street ENT clinic in London can provide all of the care that you need when you have an ear, nose, throat or balance problem. We ensure that you can get all of the right tests, treatments and advice in one convenient place.