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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 people often have stuffy noses, they can also have stuffy ears for a variety of reasons.
Clogged ears can occur outward from the eardrum because of:
- too much earwax in the Eustachian tube
- water in your ear
Clogged ears may occur inward from the eardrum because of:
- a change in altitude, such as when you fly
- sinus infections
- middle ear infections
There are many ways to tackle the problem of clogged ears. Some involve medications, but others you can do with things you likely already have at home.
In some cases, you may need to check with a doctor about getting a prescription.
Here are some tips for unclogging your ears. First, you 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.
The Valsalva maneuver is better known as “popping your ears” and helps open the Eustachian tubes.
An easy way to do this is to plug your nose and blow out while keeping your lips closed (it will puff up your cheeks). It’s important not to blow your nose too hard, which could cause problems with your eardrum.
This procedure is only helpful when there are pressure changes, such as changing altitude. It will not correct conditions of excess fluid in the inner ear.
Nasal spray or oral decongestants
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.
These are available over the counter. Buy nasal sprays here.
Try dripping mineral, olive, or baby oil into your clogged ear.
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 a couple of times daily for up to 5 days until the blockage seems to be better.
Hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide otic
Hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide otic can also be dripped into your ear. Combine the peroxide with warm water in a bowl first. Then, follow the steps to apply it as you would for the oil above.
This can also be done using a rubber bulb syringe and half-strength peroxide mixed with water.
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. It can be done at home.
When the earwax is softened, irrigation can help flush it out. For more information, read about ear irrigation here. If you’re ready, shop online to get started.
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.
It’s important to remember that 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 do clean your ear, make sure that you use a light touch and don’t put your finger in there. When washing the ear, use a warm, wet cloth on the outside portion.
There are many ways to treat issues of clogged ears at home, but sometimes seeing a medical professional can help to determine the cause of clogged ears and sometimes speed up the recovery process.
For example, sometimes both sinus and middle ear infections can greatly benefit from a prescription. When thinking about whether to see a doctor, consider your other symptoms.
If you’re experiencing any of the following, contact a healthcare professional:
- hearing loss
- ear pain
- a ringing sound
These things don’t necessarily mean that something is seriously wrong. They may point your doctor to a specific course of action.
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 it takes to go away 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. Infections and earwax buildup can take up to a week to clear up.
In some circumstances, especially with a sinus infection that you’re having a hard time shaking, it can take longer than a week. Getting effective treatment will help speed up your recovery time.