How to Deal with Congested Ear

Congestion in ear causes pressure or fullness in the ear together with muffled hearing. Be it Eustachian tube dysfunction or others, remedies can help.

Ear congestion usually refers to a vague feeling of ear pressure or fullness together with some degree of muffled hearing in the absence of any ear pain. Occasionally, some crackling or buzzing noises might also be heard in ear congestion. Usually it's nothing to be concerned. However, if it won't go away after 5-7 days, and other symptoms such as ear pain, dizziness, ear discharge or nose bleed occur, get medical help to rule out any serious conditions.

What Causes the Congestion?

There're various causes for this condition, some very common like air travel or swimming while others may be more serious sinusitis or infection that requires medical attention.

Most Common Causes of Ear Congestion

The most common reason for plugged ear is Eustachian tube dysfunction. Air travel can also lead to this condition. Detailed information of these two causes is showed below.

  • Eustachian tube dysfunction - Ear congestion is usually caused by blockage of Eustachian tube. Eustachian tube is a tube connecting the middle ear cavity with the oral cavity and it helps in equalizing the air pressure in the middle ear cavity with the air pressure in the environment. Eustachian tube opens during yawning, swallowing and chewing. This Eustachian tube dysfunction most commonly occurs because of common cold and usually lasts about a week. Eustachian tube dysfunction can also occur because of any other infection in the oral and nasal cavity and can also be caused by allergies (like hay fever, rhinitis, etc.)
  • Air travel - It can also occur after an air travel. Descent of aircraft causes a sudden increase in air pressure which may result in pressure imbalance between the middle ear cavity and the outside. Simple yawning and chewing is often sufficient to open up the Eustachian tube and cause pressure equalization during aircraft descent. Severe imbalance can sometimes result in ear pain due to barotrauma.

Less Common Causes of Ear Congestion

Few other less common causes are listed below. Ear congestion in these conditions persists for many weeks and is usually accompanied by other symptoms.

  • Sinusitis
  • Meniere's disease (an inner ear disorder causing hearing and balance disturbances)
  • Cholesteatoma (skin cyst in the middle ear)
  • Acoustic Neuroma (tumor of the nerve connecting the internal ear to the brain)
  • Fungal infection of the external ear,
  • Serous Otitis Media (a specific type of middle ear infection characterized by watery discharge)
  • Afflictions of the jaw joints (temporomandibular joints)
  • Cerumen impaction in the ear canal.

Treatment of Ear Congestion

Treatment of ear congestion is dependent upon the cause. Usually, ear congestion will require no special medications and it generally resolves spontaneously within few days.

  • Ear congestion due to temporary dysfunction of Eustachian tube is often relieved by yawning, chewing, swallowing or swallowing with the nose closed by pinching.
  • Decongestant nasal sprays can be used for Eustachian tube dysfunction if the above measures are not effective. They should not be used for more than 5 days.
  • Frequent ear congestion due to allergies requires anit-histamine medications and other anti-allergic measures (avoiding allergen, medications like corticosteroids, etc.).
  • Treatment of special cases of ear congestion due to other rare causes will be focused on the treatment of the primary condition.

Or you can try one of the following remedies to help:

1.    Use Valsalva Maneuver

Inhale deeply and pinch your nose with your thumb and index finger. Exhale through your nose while pinching it. Be sure to do it gently to avoid damaging the eardrum.

2.    Combine Alcohol and Vinegar

Mix one part each of vinegar and alcohol and put a few drops in your affected ear. Using a dropper will make it easier. Do not raise your head for a few minutes.

3.    Make Use of Olive Oil

Take lukewarm olive oil and put a few drops of it in your affected ear. After 5 minutes, use some cotton to help remove the oil and earwax that may be clogging your ears.

4.    Try Warm Water Flush

Fill up an ear syringe with lukewarm water, tilt your head, and squeeze the syringe gently. Be sure to aim for the back of your ear instead of straight in. Keep your head tilted with affected side up and change your position after 5 minutes to help the water drain out.

5.    Warm Cloth

Iron a cloth to make it a bit warm and then place it underneath your affected ear to unclog it. You can also do the same by soaking a cloth in warm water. After application, put your palm over your affected ear tightly and remove it like a suction cup to unclog your ear.

6.    Utilize Garlic Oil

Mash two garlic cloves, then heat 2 spoons of olive oil, and mix with garlic. Once it is only warm, put the mixture on your affected ear. Leave it there for a minute or so and then drain it out by changing your position.

7.    Let Steam Help

Steam inhalation can open up clogged ears because it loosens the mucus and earwax. Take hot boiling water in a bowl, add a few drops of lavender essential oil to it, wrap a towel around your head, and slowly inhale steam until you notice your ear opening up. Taking a hot shower may also help relive clogged ears.

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