Clogged ears can happen when there are changes in air pressure. Popping your ears is usually safe and may make you more comfortable. Swallowing, sucking on candy, and yawning are some ways to safely pop your ears.
Having clogged ears can be uncomfortable and may muffle your hearing. When this happens, popping your ears may help.
Popping your ears is generally safe. It usually requires little more than moving your mouth muscles. Regardless of the technique you try, it’s important to be gentle. If your symptoms worsen, it’s a good idea to stop trying to clear your ears and consult your doctor.
If you try to unclog your ears with an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medication, avoid using it for longer than directed on the package. If your symptoms persist, talk with your doctor.
There are several techniques you can try to unclog or pop your ears:
When you swallow, your muscles automatically work to open your eustachian tube. This tube connects the middle ear to the back of your nose. Opening the eustachian tube allows pressure to equalize in your middle ear, causing the popping feeling.
Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy can also help activate this response.
Yawning also helps open the eustachian tube. If you can’t yawn on cue, try a fake yawn. Open your mouth wide while breathing in and out. This may have the same result. Try “yawning” every few minutes until your ear pops.
Pinch your nostrils closed with your fingers. Try to keep your cheeks neutral or pulled in rather than puffed out. Next, blow air gently through your nostrils. This generates
For this technique, pinch your nostrils closed with your fingers while swallowing. A small 2017 study indicated that the Toynbee maneuver may be less effective than the Valsalva maneuver. However, you may want to try both to determine which method works best for you.
Applying a warm washcloth
Holding a warm washcloth or covered heating pad against your ear may help reduce pain if you have an ear infection. Placing it on your face may also help ease sinus pressure in the case of a sinus infection, a condition that can lead to feelings of fullness in your ears.
Unclogging your nasal passageways can help with clogged ears. If you use an OTC nasal decongestant, it’s best to avoid taking it for more than 3 days in a row. You may want to try the Valsalva or Toynbee maneuver after using a decongestant.
There are many OTC nasal steroids you can try. Nasal steroids may help unclog your ears by reducing the amount of inflammation in the nasal passages. This can help air move more freely through both eustachian tubes, equalizing the pressure in your ears.
Nasal steroids may be effective if your ears feel full as a result of a sinus infection. However,
In extreme cases, your doctor may recommend this simple surgical technique to ease pain and reduce pressure.
For the procedure, your doctor will likely use local anesthesia to numb the area around your ears. Then, they’ll insert thin ventilation tubes, also known as pressure equalizing tubes or tympanostomy tubes, in one or both of your ears to drain fluid from behind the eardrum.
Healthcare professionals usually perform the procedure in a doctor’s office for adults. They may also perform it in a hospital. Manufacturers design ventilation tubes to fall out on their own. This typically happens after around 1 year.
The eustachian tube supplies air to the middle ear. This helps maintain equal amounts of pressure on both sides of the eardrum.
If there’s a difference in pressure, your eardrum may bulge inward or outward in response. The pressure difference can cause that familiar feeling of fullness in the ear.
Popping your ears involves opening both eustachian tubes to relieve the imbalance of pressure, ending or reducing your discomfort.
The eustachian tubes typically open automatically when you swallow, chew, or yawn. When you do these motions, you’ll often hear a clicking, or popping, noise. Air entering the middle ear through the eustachian tubes in each ear causes the noise.
If the tubes do not open easily, they may have obstructions. Fluid, mucus, or inflammation usually cause them.
Tinnitus occurs when you experience ringing, buzzing, or other sounds that do not exist externally. Tinnitus can occur from the following causes:
- sinus or ear infections
- earwax obstructing the ear canal
- blocked eustachian tubes
- brain tumors
- hearing loss
- thyroid issues
Often, it may not be possible to identify the cause of tinnitus.
You can often still pop your ears if you have tinnitus. But if the cause of tinnitus is blockage of the eustachian tubes, the tubes may be unable to open to pop your ears.
Sometimes your ears may clog and unclog themselves naturally. This usually happens because of changes in the surrounding air pressure.
If you climb to a high altitude — for example, fly on an airplane or drive up a high mountain range — your ears may pop as they adjust to the air pressure around you. Diving underwater also leads to pressure changes that cause your ears to pop.
If your ears don’t pop on their own when you fly on a plane or change elevation, you may be able to clear them by chewing gum or yawning.
Sometimes, instead of your eustachian tubes being blocked and unable to open, they might have trouble closing. This condition, called patulous eustachian tube dysfunction, often makes your voice and breathing sound unusually loud in your ears. It can also cause you to hear crackling or popping sounds.
A buildup of fluid in the middle ear is another condition that can cause the feeling of clogged ears and popping.
In both cases, treating or recovering from the condition may ease your symptoms.
Your ears may clear up on their own, but it’s important to call a doctor if you develop any of the following:
Your doctor can rule out any underlying conditions that may contribute to clogged ears and other symptoms. The following might cause feelings of ear fullness:
- enlarged adenoids, also known as swollen tissue at the back of the throat
- sinus or ear infection
- earwax buildup
- common cold
- temporomandibular joint disorders
A clogged eardrum can sometimes bulge to the bursting point, leading to a perforated eardrum. This may occur from:
- an ear infection
- activities involving rapid pressure changes, such as air travel
- head trauma
A perforated eardrum requires a doctor’s care. This condition typically heals by itself within a few weeks. Some cases may require surgery.
Popping your ears is often safe and effective, as long as you’re gentle. Ear popping usually works within a few tries. If you have a cold or sinus congestion, medication may also be helpful.