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13 Best Home Remedies for Plugged Ears

Human body has marvelous systems to operate every organ unless something really interferes with the organ or the other body parts connected to it. Take, for example, ears, that may sometimes get blocked- the condition known as plugged ears. Ear has three parts- outer, middle and inner ear. Our middle ear is connected to the back of our nose through Eustachian tubes. These tubes drain out fluid from ears as well as equalize the pressure between the middle and the outer ear to keep our hearing organs intact for proper functioning. The problem occurs when these tubes get blocked. This may happen due to trapped fluid because of sinus infection or allergies, rapid changes in pressure because of altitude like when you travel in airplane or drive up a steep mountain or even while scuba diving. Sometimes excessive ear wax build up can also lead to plugged ears. Every cause for your clogged ear requires different remedies. If it is an infection which has plugged your ears, you’ll need to treat that. If it is pressure problem, certain simple movements are enough to unblock the plugged ears and if its ear wax build up, you need to clear off your ears to relieve your clogged ears. Here are some home remedies for plugged ears that can come to your help in such situations.

Home Remedies for Plugged Ears Due to Infections

Clogged sinuses not only give you bacterial and viral infections along with all its symptoms like pain and dizziness but also plugged ears. The connection between sinus and ears can lead to pressure build up or fluid retention in the auditory tubes due to congestion in sinus. While it is always very important to treat your sinus infection, you may use the following remedies to unblock your plugged ears for immediate relief.

1. Homemade Nasal Saline Spray to Unplug Ears

Your stuffy ears can result from an allergic inflammation due to sinus infection. Nasal salines are mild decongestants that not only unblock your clogged nose but also help plugged ears by relieving congestion. You can use a nasal saline spray that is too easy to make at home too.

Get this:

  • Water- 1 cup
  • Non-iodized salt (for ex. kosher salt)- ¼ to ½ tsp
  • Baking soda- ½ tsp
  • Sterilized bottle or jar with cover- to store the solution
  • Bulb syringe Or Dropper Or Squeeze bottle- 1

Do this:

  • Boil the water to make it sterile. Let it cool down to room temperature or to be lukewarm.
  • If your storage bottle or jar is not sterilized, boil it in water for about 3-4 minutes.
  • Pour the sterilized water into the sterilized container.
  • Add your non-iodized salt. Iodine can further aggravate allergy so make sure to use non-iodized salt. Saline water reduces inflammation but too much salt can dry out your nasal membranes. Watch the amount you mix to water, it should not be more than ½ tsp.
  • Mix baking soda to the salt water. It softens the drying effects of salt. Mix well.
  • Now take some of this saline solution in the bulb syringe, dropper or squeeze bottle, whatever you are using.
  • Tilting your head to your side at 45 degrees, place the tip of your instrument into your nostril and gently push the saline solution in there.
  • Let the solution now drain from nose or mouth and spit if some of it remains in the mouth.
  • Blow your nose when done, this will decongest your nose as well as ears.
  • Repeat with other nostril.
  • You may store the homemade saline solution for 2 days and not more than that. Repeat 2-3 times a day and make fresh solution every second day.

2. Tea Tree Oil to Unclog Plugged Ears

Tea tree oil has excellent antiseptic, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Its antibacterial and antiviral qualities make it a good remedy for infections of sinus or any other nasal and respiratory infections. This may also help you in unclogging your plugged ears.

Ways to Use Tea Tree Oil for Plugged Ears

  • Get one glass of boiling water and add a few drops of tea tree oil to this. Tilt your head at the side of clogged ear and let the steam coming out of hot water enter your plugged ear. This may instantly provide you relief. If you feel it necessary, repeat the process.
  • Dilute a few drops of tea tree oil with 1 tbsp of warm olive oil and using a dropper, trickle down a little amount of this oil into your ear. This makes trapped mucus drain out of your Eustachian tubes to give you relief from blocked ears and nose too. This will also decongest your sinus giving you relief from headache and stuffiness.

3. Apple Cider Vinegar-Rubbing Alcohol Solution for Clogged Ears

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is one of the popular remedies for sinus infection as it dissolves the mucous to make it drain out of your body. Due to its antibacterial properties, it can also cure other infections leading to fluid buildup and plugged ears. Mixing rubbing alcohol with ACV also helps in breaking up any waxy remains that might hinder the draining out of fluid.

Get this:
Equal amounts of:

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Dropper or bulb syringe or squeeze bottle
  • Cotton pad

Do this:

  • Mix apple cider vinegar and rubbing alcohol
  • Take some amount of this solution into the dropper or bulb syringe.
  • Lie down on your side with your plugged ear upwards.
  • Put the dropper into your ear and push the solution into it.
  • Hold the cotton pad against the ear and turn side with your plugged ear now downwards.
  • Do not raise your head and keep lying down for some time.
  • The fluid will drain out with the vinegar-alcohol solution giving you relief from clogged ears.

4. Make Garlic Oil to Unclog Your Plugged Ears

There is no doubt about garlic being an effective natural antibiotic. If the cause of your plugged ear is some kind of infection, using garlic oil will not only help cure the infection but the warmth of this oil will also give you relief from stuffy ears by unclogging them.

Get this:

  • Garlic cloves (peeled)- 2-3
  • Olive oil/ sesame oil/ mustard oil- 1 tbsp

Do this:

  • Take the garlic and crush it a little with the help of a broad knife or mortar and pestle.
  • Add the crushed garlic to your choice of oil.
  • Heat the oil with garlic in it.
  • Let the oil cool down till it becomes lukewarm.
  • Lie down and pour some of this warm garlic oil into your blocked ear.
  • If needed, use a cotton pad and hold it against your ear for a minute.
  • Now let the fluid drain out of your ear along with the oil.

5. Garlic-Salt Compress for Aching Plugged Ears

Previous remedies for clogged ears mentioned here have shown you that garlic and salt both are effective in getting you rid of plugged ears that you get due to sinus or other infections. This is one Ayurvedic remedy for ear infection which uses a compress made up of garlic and salt to give you relief from infection, pain as well as plugged ears.

Get this:

  • Garlic cloves (peeled)- 4-5
  • Salt- a pinch of it
  • Water- 1 glass
  • A small thin piece of clean cloth

Do this:

  • Add garlic cloves to the water and heat it for about 10-12 minutes.
  • Take out the now soft garlic cloves out of the hot water.
  • Crush the garlic cloves well to get a paste out of them. You should obtain at least 1 tsp of garlic paste.
  • Add salt to the garlic paste and mix well.
  • Place the garlic-salt paste on to the piece of cloth and wrap it up.
  • Now hold this compress against your infected plugged ear for few minutes.
  • Repeat 1-2 times a day.

Home Remedies for Plugged Ears Due to Pressure

By now, we know that any obstruction in the Eustachian tube leads to an uneven distribution of pressure in the middle ear which gives you plugged ears. However, fluid buildup due to infections is not the only cause of clogged ears. Sometimes unequal distribution of pressure from the inside and outside environment of your eardrum can also lead to clogged ears. For example, when you travel by air, your ears may get plugged while the airplane takes off or reaches a height. This is due to rapid change in air pressure. Pressure equations can also change when you swim underwater and it may take sometime to unblock ears even when you are out of water.

6. Valsalva Maneuver to Unclog Plugged Ears

Valsalva Maneuver can be defined as the action where one tries to exhale with the nostrils and mouth closed. This action increases pressure in your middle ear as well as chest. It is a good method for equalizing pressure in the ears so that you may get rid of plugged ears easily.

How to Perform Valsalva Maneuver to Unplug Ears?

• Close your mouth.
• Now pinch your nose while your mouth remains closed.
• Blow through your nose till you are able to hear a ‘pop’ sound in your ear.
• Just when your ear pops, it also unclogs.
• You are now free to open your nose and mouth.

Precaution: Don’t be too aggressive while blowing nose. This may rupture or damage your eardrum.

7. Tonybee Maneuver to Unclog Plugged Ears

When talking about actions to unplug your ears, there are many. This one is called tonybee maneuver which is again done with closed mouth and nose but with the help of water swallowing.

How to Perform Tonybee Maneuver to Unplug Ears?

• Take a sip of water.
• While the water is in your mouth, pinch your nose.
• Swallow the water while you keep your nose pinched.
• This helps in equalizing pressure in your ears.

8. Wriggle Jaw to Unclog Plugged Ears

You can’t find simplest way to unblock your ears than this. Jaw wriggle will instantly unclog your ears without help of any other thing.

How to Perform Jaw Wriggle to Unplug Ears?

  • Open your mouth with jaws wide open.
  • Now wriggle your jaw, moving your open mouth from side to side in quick regular motions.
  • While you wiggle your jaws, you’ll hear your ears pop.

9. Hop on One Foot to Unclog Plugged Ear

If nothing seems to work for you, you may chose to take some advantage of gravitational force. One of the simplest technique to use gravity to unclog your blocked ear is to gently hop on one foot but be careful not to lose balance. This is good enough to use even when fluid or water gets trapped in your middle ear like after you swim.

  • Stand on one foot.
  • Tilt your head towards the side of your plugged ear.
  • Now hop on your one foot while keeping your head tilted downwards.
  • Be careful not to lose balance.

Another way to use this gravity is to just lie down on your side with the head on your pillow. Your plugged ear should be resting over the pillow. Stay in this position for some time, if needed even for half to one hour. This will help drain any fluid that is building pressure in your middle ear.

Home Remedies for Plugged Ears Due to Ear Wax

Ear wax generally needs not be cleared off frequently. Your body takes enough care to remove the wax build up automatically from your ears. Usually it dries up and falls off along with trapped dust and debris etc. However, sometimes oddly shaped ear canals or unmindful usage of Q-tips, pins, hearing aids, earplugs etc. lead to blocked ear due to ear wax which is pushed deep inside the ear canal and it becomes difficult for it to fall out of the ear all by itself. If your ears clog due to ear wax build up, you need to soften the wax and try to make it come out of the ear without any undue pressure or force. Here are some home remedies to help you in this task.

10. Hot Compress to Soften Ear Wax in Plugged up Ears

Heat is the best way to soften the wax. However, be careful not to apply too much heat as it may lead to more damage. Here are some ways in which you can apply hot compress to your clogged ears.

Ways to Prepare Hot Compress for Plugged Ears

  1. Iron a piece of clean cloth and hold it against the blocked ear till it gets cold. Repeat for about 10 minutes. Then lie down with this warm cloth underneath your plugged up ear.
  2. Take some hot water. Soak a clean cloth in this water. Take it out and squeeze out the excess water. Hold this warm wet cloth against your clogged ear for about 5-6 minutes. Now rub the ear using your palm. In the process, your clogged ear may unblock.

11. Homemade Ear Wax Softening Solution For Plugged Ears

If you think, hot compress is doing nothing to soften your ear wax, try making this simple ear wax softening solution at home.

Get this:

  • Warm water- ¼ to ½ cup
  • Mineral oil Or Glycerin- few drops
  • Dropper/ Rubber bulb syringe/ squeeze bottle/ spoon

Do this:

  • Take care you use warm water, neither hot nor cold.
  • Add the oil or glycerin to warm water.
  • Lie down on your side with the plugged ear upwards.
  • If it’s not a suitable position, you may also tilt your head while sitting.
  • Using your dropper or spoon or whatever you choose, pour some of the solution into your clogged ear.
  • Now keep lying down with the solution in your ear for about 10 minutes. If you were sitting, keep the position intact. The idea is to hold the solution into the ear and giving it time to loosen up the wax.
  • Now, tilt the head on the other side and drain out the solution out of your ear.
  • You may gently pull your ear lobe to completely drain out the solution.
  • You ear might get unclogged at the very first attempt. If not, repeat the process again after some time. However, after third attempt, you should decide to use other method to unclog your ear or see your doctor.

Precaution: If you think you have got an infection in the ear,do not adopt this remedy as it may aggravate the condition. If you see yellow green discharge coming out of the ear, feel feverish or have severe pain etc. you should consult your doctor or an ENT specialist instead of using any home remedies for clogged ears.

12. Use Olive Oil to Remove Ear Wax and Unplug Ears

Wax impaction is the condition when large amounts of ear wax get hardened and lodge into your ear canal. If you try to take out this wax with the help of some device or pin etc. it may push further and create problems for you. Instead use olive oil. Olive can excellently soften the ear wax and coats it in such a way that the wax breaks down in smaller pieces that can slip out of the ear canal easily.

Do this:

  • Take olive oil having room temperature in a dropper.
  • At night, before going to bed, pour 3 drops of olive oil into your clogged ear.
  • Lie down on your side in such a way that olive oil can well penetrate your ear canal.
  • Repeat this for three consecutive nights.
  • On the fourth day, in the morning, take a bulb syringe and fill warm water into it.
  • Spray this warm water gently into your ear canal. This will make the ear wax fall out of your ear.

Precaution: Don’t use olive oil or any other oil for wax removal if you doubt to have a perforated ear drum whose symptoms include ear drainage, buzzing sounds in the ear, unusual discomfort or pain in ear along with hearing loss.

13. Some Other Simple Home Remedies to Unclog Plugged Ears

These are some do’s and don’ts that can either prevent your ears from clogging or relieve you of a plugged ear.

  • Avoid extreme temperatures, especially when you have sinus related ear clogging.
  • When diving or scuba diving, do it slowly. A slow ascending and descending rate allows your body to adjust to the pressure and prevents ear clogging. Avoid diving during respiratory infection or cold.
  • When flying, avoid sleeping when plane descends. Keep on yawning or wiggling your jaws. You may also chew gum or a candy. Let children sip some drink so that they do not get plugged ears while flying in the air.
  • You may also gently inhale and exhale through closed nostrils and mouth. This will unclog your plugged ear.
  • Heat is always good for loosening up the ear wax. You may like to take hot shower for about 15 minutes or so. This helps unplug congested ears.
  • Hot foods also help decongest your ear and nose too, especially when it is due to cold. Have garlic, onions, radish, jalapeno, pepper, chillies etc. to relieve congestion.
  • Warm soups, like hot spicy foods, help relieve congestions as they can soften the mucus which clogs your ear. Thus, have hot soups, broths, tea etc. to unplug your plugged up ears.

Applying the right remedies for plugged ears after identifying the exact cause of clogged ear is very important. If you cannot understand what is the underlying cause of your blocked ears, it’s better to take help of doctor as ears are too precious.

About Sara

Sara is a Boston-based registered dietitian who works with clients to improve their health by optimizing nutrition. You can find her running, sweating in hot yoga, cooking in the kitchen, dining out, or exploring. Eating Food-Mostly Plants, and improving our relationship with food, is the secret to lifelong health in her eyes.


  1. Thank you so much tea tree oil and hot water worked great!

  2. how long did it take to become clear?

  3. i am looking for a rememdy to remove the trapped air bubble from inside my ear, due to flying up to an elevation of 65 hundred feet, i have had this now over two weeks …can anyone help? would the warm olive oil work on trapped air?

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