What to do if my ear is clogged?

Ear blockage can be annoying, and it can affect your hearing, causing discomfort and even pain in some cases. It is a common problem that affects people of all ages. Some people find it easy to clear their ears by yawning or swallowing, while others struggle to do so. The causes of ear blockage vary, and so do the remedies. In this article, we will take a look at what to do if your ear is clogged.

What Are the Causes of Ear Blockage?

The ear canal is a tube that connects the outer ear to the eardrum. If it gets blocked, it can lead to the sensation of clogged ears. Some of the factors that can cause ear blockage include:

  • Excessive earwax: Earwax is a sticky substance created by the glands in your ear to keep your ear canal lubricated and clean. When too much earwax accumulates, it can block the ear canal, leading to clogged ears.
  • Swimming: Swimming or taking a shower can cause water to enter the ear canal, leading to a feeling of clogged ears. If the water does not drain out, it can lead to a bacterial infection or inflammation.
  • Air pressure changes: If the air pressure changes suddenly, such as during air travel or scuba diving, it can cause a feeling of fullness or blockage in the ear.
  • Ear infections: An infection in the middle ear can cause fluid buildup, leading to clogged ears.
  • Foreign objects: Small objects, like insects, can enter the ear canal and get stuck, leading to blockage.

When Should You Seek Medical Attention?

In most cases, ear blockage is not a serious condition, and it can be resolved with some simple remedies. However, in some cases, it may indicate a more severe condition like an ear infection or injury. You should seek medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • Persistent earache
  • Discharge from the ear
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Facial weakness

What Can You Do to Unblock Your Ears?

If you have a feeling of fullness or blockage in your ears, there are various steps that you can take to unclog them. Below are some of the most common remedies:

1. Yawn or Chew Gum

When you yawn or chew gum, you encourage the muscles that control the eustachian tube to open up, which can help relieve pressure buildup in the ear.

2. Use a Warm Compress

Placing a warm compress over your ear can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation that may be causing your ears to feel clogged. You can use a warm towel or a hot water bottle.

3. Try Over-the-Counter Medication

You can take over-the-counter medication, such as decongestants, to help reduce inflammation and relieve pressure in the ears.

4. Try Ear Drops

If your ears are clogged due to excessive earwax buildup, you can use ear drops to soften the earwax, which makes it easier to remove.

5. Use a Neti Pot

A Neti pot is used to irrigate the nasal passages with salt water solution. This can help relieve congestion in the sinuses and ears that may be causing discomfort.

6. See Your Doctor

If the above remedies do not work, and you are experiencing pain, or any other symptoms, you should see a doctor. Your doctor may be able to identify the cause of your ear blockage and prescribe appropriate treatment.

How Can You Prevent Ear Blockage?

While ear blockage cannot always be prevented, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of developing ear blockage, including:

  • Take care when cleaning your ears to avoid pushing earwax further into your ear canal.
  • Avoid using cotton swabs, as they can push earwax further into your ear canal, making the problem worse.
  • Use earplugs while swimming, and dry your ears thoroughly afterward.
  • Regularly clean your hearing aids, earbuds or earplugs using an antiseptic solution.

The Bottom Line

Ear blockage can be caused by various factors, ranging from excessive earwax build up to infections or injuries. While it is not always a serious condition, it can cause discomfort and affect your hearing. The remedies we have discussed in this article can help you unclog your ears and relieve the associated pain and discomfort. If your symptoms persist or worsen, you should see a doctor to determine the cause of your ear blockage and receive appropriate treatment.

  • What are the common causes of ear blockage?
    • Excessive earwax
    • Swimming
    • Air pressure changes
    • Ear infections
    • Foreign objects
  • When should you seek medical attention for ear blockage?
    • Persistent earache
    • Discharge from the ear
    • Fever
    • Dizziness
    • Facial weakness
  • What can you do to unblock your ears?
    • Yawn or chew gum
    • Use a warm compress
    • Try over-the-counter medication
    • Try ear drops
    • Use a Neti pot
    • See your doctor
  • How can you prevent ear blockage?
    • Take care when cleaning your ears
    • Avoid using cotton swabs
    • Use earplugs while swimming, and dry your ears thoroughly afterward
    • Regularly clean your hearing aids, earbuds or earplugs using an antiseptic solution


Burtis, M. (2016). Clogged Ear: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/clogged-ear.

Earwax blockage. (2019). Ear Blockage – Earwax Blockage – Symptoms – Causes – Diagnosis – Treatment. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/earwax-blockage-topic-overview#1.

Stöver, T., Lenarz, T., & Issing, P. (2000). Die einseitige Innenohrschwerhörigkeit – differentialdiagnostische Überlegungen anhand von Fallbeispielen. HNO. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s001060050640.