Don’t treat plugged ears lightly – you never know when it is a sign of impending hearing loss. Anything that blocks the outer, middle or inner ear can pose a threat to your normal level of hearing. The result is decreased hearing, pain, and discomfort. A buildup of wax, foreign objects and infections of the middle ear can prevent sound from reaching the inner ear. Luckily, you can often avoid a visit to the doctor by following home remedies to unplug ears.
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Causes and Symptoms
The constant natural secretion of wax associated with the glands found in the ear canal can initiate a buildup of wax – one of the most common causes of plugged ears. Wax buildup can also lead to fullness, itchiness, and pain in the ear. Other causes for plugged ears include:
• An Airplane Flight – The changes in pressure and altitude that come with flying in an airplane can cause unequal pressure on either side of the ear drum. As a result, you may experience a plugged up feeling in the ears, especially when the airplane is ascending or descending.
• Foreign Objects – It is not uncommon for a child to insert a foreign object into their ear – including small toys, beads, peas, seeds, buttons and other small items. Sometimes, adults leave behind pieces of cotton when trying to clean out their ears. Insects have also been known to get trapped in the ear. The ear blockage linked to foreign objects can also cause pain and swelling of the ear.
• Infection – Ears can feel plugged when you are sick with an infection, such as the common cold. When the eustachian tube (responsible for connecting the back of the nose to the middle ear) becomes blocked, mucus can accumulate in the middle ear. In addition to the plugged feeling in your ears, you may also experience a popping sensation. Ear infections may create thick yellow or green discharge from the ear canal, which adds to the plugged up sensations.
• Growths in the Ear – Surfers and swimmers are known to encounter bony growths in the outer ear called osteomas. Abnormal bone growth in the middle ear called otosclerosis can also prevent the transmission of sound to the inner ear.
• Ear Conditions – Conditions that affect the ear, such as inner ear disorders like Meniere’s disease, can cause fullness of the ears, hearing loss and dizziness.
• Loud Noises – A sudden plugging of the ears can occur when the nerves of the inner ear suffer damage linked to sudden or constant exposure to loud noises or blasts. Examples include being too close to a fireworks display or music speakers turned up too loud.
When ears are plugged, you may experience the following symptoms:
Plugged Ear Home Remedies
From nagging pain to a decreased ability to hear people speak, plugged ears are no fun. To make matters worse, some cases require immediate attention to ensure parts of the ear do not become permanently damaged. Depending on the cause of this condition, you may need to get acquainted with the following home remedies to unplug ears:
a) Olive Oil:
Abnormal amounts of earwax causes ears to feel plugged and you can remedy the situation by first pouring three drops of warm olive oil in each ear. The oil helps soften hardened wax so that it can naturally drain out on its own. Sometimes, you need to follow the olive oil treatment daily for up to four days to address more stubborn cases.
b) Hot Shower:
Fill your bathroom with the healing steam of a hot shower. Take in the steaminess for at least 15 minutes, which will help to liquefy a buildup of earwax or loosen the pressure of a plugged ear.
c) Tea Kettle:
After boiling water in a tea kettle, remove from the heat source and place your plugged ear over the opening of the kettle. Allow the steam to work its way into your ear to loosen accumulated wax and other blockages of the ear.
d) Avoid Q-Tips:
Using cotton swabs to unplug your ears can make matters worse by lodging earwax deeper into the ear canal, as well as causing damage to the eardrum.
e) Alcohol and Vinegar:
If you find your ears plugged after taking a shower or swimming a couple of laps, try drying out the wetness with a solution made out of one drop of isopropyl alcohol and one drop of white vinegar. Pour the remedy into the affected ear, which will dry out the water and prevent the growth of bacteria – the first step towards suffering a painful bacterial ear infection.
f) Hydrogen Peroxide :
When a buildup of wax has plugged your ears, clean out with an eyedropper filled with hydrogen peroxide (body temperature or slightly warmer). Lie down or tilt your head so that the blocked ear is pointing up. Drop the peroxide into the ear until it feels full. You will soon detect the ‘fizzling’ action. Wait three minutes before tilting your head to the other side over a sink or towel to allow the peroxide to drain out. Tilt your head once more and gently squirt warm water into the ear. Let it settle and then drain. Using a wash cloth or cotton balls, clean away the water and softened wax from your outer ear.
If a buildup of earwax is causing your ears to feel plugged, try loosening the wax by massaging the ear. With your fingertips, gently massage the area located directly behind your earlobe. For several minutes, make sure that you use a circular motion while moving about the region. Next, firmly tug on your earlobe while opening and closing your mouth. Sometimes, the loose wax becomes unclogged. This method will also work if you experience ear issues during an airplane flight.
h) Damp Towel:
If you place a hot, damp towel to a plugged ear, the heat will help soften a buildup of wax. You can then carefully remove the earwax with a Q-tip afterwards.
i) Hot Water Bottle:
Apply a hot water bottle to a plugged-up ear to alleviate any pain associated with an ear infection. The heat will also encourage healing.
To soothe a plugged ear due to infection or cold, apply a cloth bag filled with warm salt to the affected ear, and lay on it.
k) Baby or Mineral Oil:
Adding a few drops of baby oil to a plugged ear can help clear away any earwax buildup or debris. Make sure you allow the oil time to work its way into your plugged ear. Leave the oil inside of your ear for up to one hour, and then flush it out with a squirt of water.
When you yawn, air presses through the ear canal, which helps to unplug ears. Yawning helps adjust your ears and keep them unplugged, especially when you are riding on an airplane.
m) Drink Water:
Drinking glasses of water will help address the irritation associated with a plugged ear.
n) Chewing Gum:
When you chew gum, the extra saliva that is produced helps promote the act of swallowing that can help unplug your ears.
o) Pinch Your Nose:
To unplug an obstruction of the eustachian tubes, try forcibly opening the tubes. Take a deep breath and try to blow out while pinching your nostrils closed – all while your mouth is closed . This action will create pressure that helps clear up a plugged ear.
The action of frequent swallowing can help unplug ears because it presses air through the ear canals and helps clear up a plugged ear. This is a good method to use when experiencing plugged ears while traveling on an airplane.
 Five Minute Fixes by Reader’s Digest; pg. 346.