Sometimes, there’s nothing more annoying than a clogged ear, we all know that. Few things can ruin our otherwise pleasant mood more quickly than plugged ears and the feeling that nothing you can do will help you get rid of the clogging. This sensation doesn’t usually appear when there’s something way more serious going on in the body at the moment, but instead comes in the most unexpected times, when we’re supposed to be on our way to doing our own thing. Like when taking a stroll in the park during the cold season, or just when we though we got rid of that nasty cold that plagued us a week ago, or when preparing to travel at high altitudes (by plane, most commonly). Considering that the ear and the inner ear nerves have a central role in allowing us to orient ourselves into space and to feel the balance of our own bodies, this symptom can get pretty annoying, even besides a somewhat encumbered hearing sense. In today’s post, we will explore with you the main causes for this affliction, the most popular home remedies for treating it and how to actually get rid of it step by step.
What Causes a Clogged Ear?
The main causes for a clogged ear sensation have to do with exposure to cold, humidity, sudden changes in altitude and pressure, or with an underlying infection that seeps into the ear tubes and causes an uncomfortable congestion. If there’s a different reason that caused the clogged ear, the gravity of the situation can vary as well, which why some times it feels like there’s only a ringing sound in your ear that you can’t shake off, and other times there’s also a nasty headache and generalized pain that leave you more or less helpless.
- Water that was left over in an ear tube (from swimming, from the rain or simply from washing). There’s a reason why doctors only recommend cleaning your ears extra carefully and not that often, preferably with delicate cotton swabs or special ear sprays: because water isn’t supposed to get in there, where it may get you sick and cause a serious clogging.
- A serious cold or a sinus infection – both these infections can cause discharge to seep into your ears and eventually clog them or even get the infection to spread here as well.
- Allergies can cause a similar effect and make one feel like their ears are filling up with a clogging liquid that just hurts and encumbers the hearing until you feel like “I can’t take this anymore, my head is going to explode”.
- Changes in altitude and pressure (being in an airplane). In other words, it’s quite common to experience discomfort and even pain in your ear tube after flying. For adults, the matter is easier to treat or at least understanding it keeps the situation under control. For small children though, this discomfort and a difficulty to hear really makes for a noisy trip, filled with fits of crying and so on.
- Accumulated dirt and wax. Though uncommon, the accumulation of wax can lead to a clogged ear and the full array of unpleasant symptoms which can accompany it.
- A blockage in the Eustachian tubes of the inner ear – this not so common condition isn’t caused by any of the triggers listed so far and simply happens internally without any clogging agent from afar.
Video: How to Unclog Your Ears
The Most Popular Home Remedies for Clogged Ears
It’s time now to look at what home remedies for a clogged ear have traditionally been recommended and used through the popular wisdom of our grandmothers. Some of these are still highly efficient and recommendable today, while some not so much. Remember: even if a home remedy is hugely popular and people swear by its magic ability to cure plugged ears or any other affliction it’s been recommended for, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s also true. Sometimes, a cure continues to be popularized simply by the strong belief in its efficacy, even if said efficacy is a complete myth.
That being said, let’s see what the most popular home remedies for clogged ears are and if they really are as good as they’re rumored to be.
- Mechanical Releases (like the Valsalva Maneuver) – The easiest way to relieve the pressure in your ears caused by clogging is to simply try to out-pressure it from within. Things like yawning, swallowing hard and so on have been known to occasionally provide a fix for clogged ears. The doctor’s orders on this topic is to perform the Valsalva Maneuver, where you pinch your nose, take a big breath, close your mouth and try to exhale hard, as if blowing the air into your cheeks. Our verdict: this kind of a maneuver can indeed be efficient, but only if what caused the clogging in the first place was travelling at high altitude. It is indeed a natural and easy cure: that’s why it’s recommended to have chewing gum with you when taking the airplane, or to feed your babies and toddlers if they start crying in pain (the swallowing motions may just do the trick).
- Local rinses (like olive oil or an alcohol and vinegar combination) – This kind of home remedy is the most common thing our mothers and grandmothers did whenever we felt uncomfortable due to a clogged ear while we were little. The recipes may vary, but the solution always involved the removal of impurities with the help of a warm liquid applied right in the clogged ear in the form of drops. Other oils can be used for this cleanse as well – sweet oil, home-made garlic oil, tea tree oil and so on. Our verdict: this solution may work, but only if the uncomfortable feeling is caused by a sore throat or a cold that doesn’t cause any nose clogging anymore. It requires a clearing in the nose in order for the air to circulate properly and allow the liquid to work and unclog the ear. This home remedy also works if the cause was a wax build-up, but make sure you clean your ear properly first with a cotton swab, to clear up any residue left. Then you can add the drops of liquid and lie on your back, waiting for the solution to pour out and unclog everything.
- Nasal sprays – this isn’t that much of a folk home remedy, as much as an urban one. More often than always, any pharmacist recommends a nasal spray usually filled with a saline solution as the cure for a clogged ear. The difference between this and the home cure described above is that the nasal spray is applied directly in your nose instead of your ears, again with you lying on your back. Our verdict: This works only if your sinuses were the ones causing the clogging: it will help remove the impurities in the deeper areas of the nose and clear up your ears as well. If a nasal spray does not work, try ear drops – they will also soften up the wax and residue in the clogged ear, while providing some anti-bacterial and anti-fungal treatment as well.
- Homeopathic remedies – these have a more controversial status than folk medicine remedies and there are a lot of scientists who claim that any homeopathic remedy is simply overpriced sugar sold to the gullible. We wouldn’t be so quick to judge, since only time will tell how efficient homeopathy will prove to be, so let’s leave it to personal belief and choice. If you’re a fan of homeopathic home remedies, this is what you can take in case of a clogged ear and an earache: chamomile, mercury (Mercurius solubilis), magnesium (Magnesia phosphoric), Pulsatilla or Belladonna. Our verdict: we wouldn’t necessarily claim they help, but if you’re a believer, then we guess they can’t hurt either.
How to Get Rid of a Clogged Ear Step-by-step
As you can see from our brief analysis of home remedies above, each remedy tends to work for different causes which lie behind the ear clogging. That means that a solution which was recommended to you for the clogged ear problem isn’t good or bad per se, but will only work for certain causes. Very few treatments deal with the symptoms without actually targeting the underlying causes, so this is what ends up making all the difference. Therefore, if you find yourself affected by a clogged ear, this is what you need to do:
- Step 1: Try to figure out what is causing your ear plugging. This is actually the single most important step of handling this problem. Read the sections above for the symptoms, think about whether you have a bad cold or if you experienced a lot of cold draft lately, then decide on the most appropriate home remedy from our list.
- Step 2: Apply the home remedy most suitable to your situation 2 or 3 times a day for two days. If you feel no relief, and the clogged ear sensation is accompanied by pain, then it means there may be a more serious cause for it.
- Step 3: If it comes to step three, go see a doctor in case all suitable home remedies for your clogged ear fail to work. If you have a more precise diagnostic, it might be easier to treat. In case all else fails, the doctor may prescribe you with some antibiotics to solve the problem once and for all, but don’t worry, it rarely comes to that. Most times, home remedies are just the thing your clogged ear needs to get better.