Why do my ears feel blocked?

Blocked ears don’t tend to be dangerous but they can be incredibly uncomfortable to live with. You may experience problems with your hearing and the discomfort of your ears clearing and then getting blocked up again. Many causes of blocked ears can be treated at home, or will simply clear up on their own, however, it’s also worth speaking to a specialist so that you can prevent blocked ears from happening again further down the line.

Some common causes of blocked ears

  • Problems with the Eustachian tubes. These are the tubes that run from the middle ear to the throat, providing a channel for mucus to reach the throat where it can be swallowed. However, fluid and mucus can sometimes get trapped here and cause a blockage, often as a result of having a common cold, sinusitis or allergies. Blocked Eustachian tubes can result in an ear infection when bacteria or a viral infection gets into the middle ear, so it’s essential to clear these as soon as possible.
  • Acoustic neuroma. This is a growth that appears on the cranial nerve. Although this type of tumour is usually small and grows slowly when it reaches a certain size it can make the ear feel blocked.
  • Altitude changes. Any rapid change in air pressure - such as scuba diving or going up in a plane - can cause the feeling of blocked ears. The Eustachian tubes equalise pressure in the ears but sometimes don’t do this effectively, which results in the change in pressure being felt in the ears.
  • Earwax issues. The wax in your ears should be soft but it can sometimes harden and physically block the ears - this is frequently caused by using a cotton bud to clean out the ears. Ear wax blockages can cause ringing in the ears, dizziness and earache.

How to treat blocked ears

  • Steam inhalation. This can help to loosen anything that is physically blocking the ear, such as ear wax. All you need to do is turn the shower on to hot and sit in the steamy room for 10-15 minutes. A warm flannel over the ear can also help.
  • Open up your Eustachian tubes. The Valsalva Maneuver can be used to do this - close your mouth, take a deep breath through your nose and then pinch your nose shut. Try to gently exhale through your nose and you should feel a pop as your ears unclog. Avoid blowing too hard or you could damage the eardrum.
  • Ear drops and medication. Decongestants, cold or sinus medication, as well as antihistamines if your ear blockage is caused by allergies, can all be useful when it comes to dealing with this kind of issue in the ears. Ear drops can also be effective if you are having problems with ear wax, as they will soften any hardened wax in the ear and can help to naturally remove it.
  • See a doctor. If you’ve tried home remedies and none have worked, or you’re getting consistent pain and other symptoms such as a fever, then seeing an ENT specialist could be essential.

Blocked ears could have a number of causes and there are many different ways to treat this problem. As always, be sure to get in touch with the Harley Street ENT clinic to resolve ear blockages and alternative ear, nose and throat related issues you may have.

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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.