The human body has marvellous 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. The 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 an 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 earwax builds 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 the 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 a 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.
- 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
- 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 another nostril.
- You may store the homemade saline solution for 2 days and not more than that. Repeat 2-3 times a day and make a 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 the 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 a headache and stuffiness.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar-Rubbing Alcohol Solution for Clogged Ears
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is one of the popular remedies for a 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.
Equal amounts of:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Rubbing alcohol
- Dropper or bulb syringe or squeeze bottle
- Cotton Pad
- 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.
- Garlic cloves (peeled)- 2-3
- Olive oil/ sesame oil/ mustard oil- 1 tbsp
- 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.
- Garlic cloves (peeled)- 4-5
- Salt- a pinch of it
- Water- 1 glass
- A small thin piece of clean cloth
- 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 some time to unblock ears even when you are out of the 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 a 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. Toynbee Maneuver to Unclog Plugged Ears
When talking about actions to unplug your ears, there are many. This one is called Toynbee manoeuvre which is again done with closed mouth and nose but with the help of water swallowing.
How to Perform Toynbee 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 the simplest way to unblock your ears than this. Jaw wriggle will instantly unclog your ears without the 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 choose 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 on 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 buildup, 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 the hot compress to your clogged ears.
Ways to Prepare Hot Compress for Plugged Ears
- 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.
- 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.
- Warm water- ¼ to ½ cup
- Mineral oil Or Glycerin- few drops
- Dropper/ Rubber bulb syringe/ squeeze bottle/ spoon
- 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 solutions 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 earlobe to completely drain out the solution.
- Your ear might get unclogged at the very first attempt. If not, repeat the process again after some time. However, after the third attempt, you should decide to use another 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 earwax 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 into smaller pieces that can slip out of the ear canal easily.
- 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 eardrum 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 the 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 the 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.
Frequently Asked Question & Answers:
Q: What are the symptoms of plugged ears?
Ans: Plugged ears (or clogged ears or blocked ears) refer to a blockage in the ear canal that makes your hearing as muffled. A person suffering from plugged ears can experience certain symptoms like
- Popping sensation in the ear
- Reduced hearing capacity
- A feel of having some liquid or mucus inside the ear
- The windy sound inside the ear
- Pain and irritation
- Unable to sleep properly
- Headache or light headedness
- Constant feeling of itching
Q: What are the best remedies for plugged ears?
Ans: There are various remedies available to unclog the plugged ears but we are mentioning the best remedies that work well in clearing the plugged ears effectively.
- Valsalva maneuver (best remedy for clogged ears caused due to pressure)
- Nasal saline spray (for plugged ears caused due to sinus infections or allergic inflammation)
- Apple cider vinegar & Rubbing alcohol (unclog plugged ears caused due to sinus infections)
- Olive oil (relieves plugged ears caused due to excess ear wax)
- Yawing or chewing gums or warm compress (Unclog the plugged ears)
Q: Why do my ears keep getting blocked? (OR) What are the causes of blocked ears?
Ans: Blocked ears can be caused due to various causes. The first and foremost thing is to identify why the ears are getting blocked to unclog them effectively. So, we are providing some of the main causes of blocked ears.
- Eustachian tube blockage due to infections (sinus or cold) or allergies
- Higher altitude (Changes in air pressure inside and outside the ear)
- Excessive earwax
- Acoustic neuroma (a tumour that develops on the cranial nerve which leads from the inner ear to the brain and causes clogged ear or hearing loss)
- Fluid in the ear
- Any foreign object or ear infection
- Swimming (water accumulation into the ear)
Q: How do you unblock an ear from a cold?
Ans: The sinuses and ears are connected inside the head. So, if you suffer from sinus congestion or cold then it will affect the pressure in the ears and thereby makes it blocked. Here are few tips that help you to get relief from the clogged ears that caused due to cold.
- Get moisture by using nasal spray or warm compress on the face or run humidifier or steam to relieve the congestion and thereby to balance the pressure in the ears.
- Avoid temperature extremes why because it will worsen the sinus or cold-related ear problems and make you suffer a lot.
- Try decongestant or any over the counter medications by consulting your doctor to relieve your clogged ears.
- Drink plenty of water and other healthy liquids to hydrate your body and clear mucus for giving relief from cold and plugged ears.
- Blow the nose gently to remove the mucus causing cold but make sure to block one nostril while you blow the other one.
- Move your jaws gently or yawning or swallowing hard will help to pop your congested ears by stimulating the muscles.
Q: Why do my ears get plugged after exercising?
Ans: Whenever you perform intense exercises then you will experience a change in the air pressure within the middle ear. According to AAO, the Eustachian tube is responsible for regulating, ventilating and equalizing the air pressure. The ears are connected to the breath through the Eustachian tube behind the nose and if any air bubble sneaks into this tube and creates an imbalance in the ear pressure then your ears feel clogged.
Whenever you exercise intensely then you breath may be shortened (OR) if you hold your breath then the inhaled air will travel backwards up through the ear tubes which makes your ears feel blocked or plugged.
To release the buildup of ear pressure, you need to drink plenty of water or swallow or yawn or simply hold your nose and blow it gently. Also, avoid holding the breath throughout the movement – inhale as you move with gravity and exhale as you move against the gravity.
Q: How do you relieve ear pressure?
Ans: The changes in the air pressure will result in causing pressure in the ear. There are few ways like trying breathing exercises, taking a decongestant or antihistamine, use humidifier or steam or hot water shower, lye on the side in which your ear got clogged to encourage the drainage from the ears, stay hydrated, swallow or yawn to move your jaws, try neti pot and blow your nose by closing the nostril and mouth to relieve the pressure in your ears and thereby to get rid of plugged ears. Also, avoid the intake of caffeine, alcohol, salt and tobacco products which affect the blood circulation and pressure in the ears.
Q: How to open blocked ear? (OR) How to prevent ear block?
Ans: Blocked ear will make you feel discomfort to perform any work. So, here are some tips that help to open your blocked ear.
- Stay hydrated and moisturized to drain the mucus causing cold or sinusitis which in turn results in plugged ears.
- Keep your head elevated to balance the pressure levels in your eardrum.
- Also, avoid spending time in temperature extremes why because it will make your sinus related ear problems worse.
- Simply close your mouth, pinch your nostril and blow your nose to prevent the blocked ears.
- Avoid fast movements like standing or sitting too quickly or shaking your head which worsen the problem instead of relieving it.
- While travelling takes essential steps like taking nasal spray or oral decongestants, pills or any other OTC medications recommended by your doctor.
- Remove the excess ear wax regularly to prevent ear blockage.
- Work with your jaw muscles (either by yawing or swallowing hard candies or chewing gums)
- Blow your nose with some breathing exercises like valsalva maneuver or Toynbee maneuver.
- Consult your doctor if you’re suffering from fever, headache or ear pain along with plugged ears.