To help unplug your ears, you may want to try “popping” them by plugging your nose and blowing out while keeping your mouth closed. Ear drops, oils, peroxide, or irrigation may also be helpful.
Just like you get stuffy noses, you can also develop stuffy ears for various reasons.
Clogged ears can occur outward from the eardrum because of:
- too much earwax
- water in your ear
- debris or foreign body causing obstruction
Clogged ears may occur inward from the eardrum because of:
Treating stuffy ears can depend on the cause and the location of the problem.
You may need to determine if the problem is in the middle ear (behind the eardrum) or the outer ear — specifically the auditory canal, where earwax can build up.
Depending on the cause, treatment may involve:
- over-the-counter (OTC) ear drops
- “popping your ears”
- OTC nasal sprays
- applying a warm compress
- impacted earwax removal by a medical professional
- treating an illness or infection
Here are some tips for unclogging your ears.
If your ear feels blocked due to an ear infection or other illness, such as a cold or allergies, treating that cause may help resolve your symptoms.
Remedies can include:
You can do this by plugging your nose and blowing out while keeping your lips closed. It’s important not to blow your nose too hard, as it can cause problems with your eardrum.
Keep in mind: This procedure is only helpful when there are pressure changes, such as changing altitude. It does not correct conditions of excess fluid in the inner ear. If there is fluid, you may be unable to make them “pop,” and trying may cause pain.
The Toynbee maneuver may also help relieve pressure. You can do this by holding your nose and swallowing.
Nasal spray or oral decongestants
OTC nasal sprays and oral decongestants can be especially useful when flying or if you have nasal or sinus congestion. They’re often more effective as a preventive treatment.
You should never stick anything into your ear to remove earwax, as it can introduce bacteria, push the earwax further in, or cause an injury.
Keep in mind: None of the below remedies should be used if you have an eardrum or ear tube perforation.
Remedies can include:
Warm 2 to 3 tablespoons of your oil of choice, but be careful not to make it too hot. Check it on your hand or wrist to make sure it’s a safe temperature and doesn’t irritate your skin.
Then, use an eye dropper to put one to two drops in your ear. Keep your head tilted for 10 to 15 seconds. Do this twice daily for up to 5 days until the blockage improves.
Hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide otic
Hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide otic eardrops can also be dripped into your ear. Follow the steps to apply it as you would for the oil above.
You’ll likely experience some loud fizzing — let it do this, and keep your head at an angle until it stops.
Over-the-counter ear drops
You can pick up ear drops online or at your local pharmacy. Use as directed on the packaging.
Irrigating your ear may help after you’ve made some headway with the blockage. A doctor may perform it in a doctor’s office, or you may also be able to do it at home.
When the earwax is softened, irrigation can help flush it out.
If you have certain health conditions, ear irrigation may cause complications, such as an ear infection or perforated eardrum. Avoid ear irrigation if you have:
- a damaged eardrum
- tubes in your ears
- a weakened immune system
- recurrent swimmer’s ear (otitis externa)
Warm compress or steam
Try placing a warm compress over your ear or taking a hot shower. A shower can help get steam into your ear canal. Just make sure to stay in for at least 5 to 10 minutes.
If your ear is clogged with water, you can try laying on that side on a towel. Gravity may help the water exit your ear.
The ear is an extremely sensitive part of the body. Most ear, nose, and throat professionals don’t typically instruct patients to clean their ears regularly.
If you do, it’s important to be careful and to use a light touch. Sticking a cotton swab and swirling it around every night may seem like a good way to treat or prevent earwax buildup, but it can cause problems for this delicate part of the body.
When you clean your ear, make sure you use a light touch and don’t put your finger inside. When washing the ear, use a warm, wet cloth on the outside portion.
Sometimes seeing a medical professional can help determine the cause of clogged ears and speed up recovery.
For example, sometimes both sinus and middle ear infections can greatly benefit from prescription medications.
If you have symptoms of a sinus infection, it may be best to talk with a doctor. In children and adults, ear infections typically occur due to viral infections and can be easy to treat.
If you’re experiencing any of the following, contact a healthcare professional:
These things don’t necessarily mean that something is seriously wrong. They may point a doctor to a specific course of action.
The following includes frequently asked questions about treating clogged ears.
How do I naturally unclog my ear?
Remedies for unclogging your ear typically involve treating the underlying condition. Natural remedies for earwax buildup may include steam, ear irrigation, using a warm compress, and dripping certain oils into the ear.
How do you unblock your ears if they won’t pop?
If blocked due to pressure, you may be able to unclog your ear by blowing air out gently while plugging your nose and keeping your lips closed. Avoid blowing too hard, as it can damage your eardrum.
Why does my ear feel blocked, clogged, or muffled?
Your ear may feel blocked due to changes in pressure, an ear infection, water in the ear, or congestion due to a cold or allergies. Sometimes, earwax can also build up and become impacted.
The good news is that a clogged ear, while uncomfortable, is usually pretty easy to handle on your own. Some cases may call for a bit of medical intervention.
A clogged ear can be distracting and annoying, so wanting it to go away as fast as possible is understandable. How long this takes can vary depending on the root cause and how quickly it’s treated.
Ears that are clogged from water or air pressure may be resolved quickly. Depending on the severity, infections and earwax buildup can take longer to clear up.
Getting effective treatment can help speed up your recovery time.