Clogged ear: where does this feeling come from?

Clogged ears are a common and usually mild symptom. For example, it is associated with many hearing disorders and pathologies affecting the ENT sphere or with barotraumatic trauma (aircraft, diving). To overcome this symptom, it is necessary to treat its cause.


Having blocked ears is an unpleasant sensation, like a ringing, but frequent and generally not serious. This can happen when you get out of the bath or shower, on a plane, while diving or be linked to conditions affecting the ENT sphere.

The symptom is accompanied by a loss of hearing, more or less marked. Pain, fever, whistling can also be associated with clogged ears, depending on the pathology or the situation that is causing it.

The causes

There are many pathologies that have clogged ears as a symptom. Let us quote in particular those of the ENT sphere:

  • nasopharyngitis, otherwise known as the common cold ;
  • otitis, and especially otitis media (an infection of the middle ear, which concerns the eardrum or the eardrum);
  • sinusitis (an inflammation of the mucous membranes lining the inside of the sinuses – the bony cavities located in the bones of the face).

In addition, let us mention:

  • cerumen plug, which is the result of the accumulation of secretion from the external auditory canal (cerumen);
  • barotrauma in the ear, i.e. damage due to a change in pressure. This occurs, for example, during a plane trip (at the time of take-off and landing), during scuba diving with a bottle, or even in a swimming pool when practicing underwater swimming. In these cases, the external pressure differs from that of the internal cavities of the body and the organism must adapt slowly;
  • airborne barotraumatic otitis, which refers to inflammation of the ear (otitis) due to air travel. Logically, on-board personnel are more likely to be affected by this type of pathology;
  • the presence of a foreign body in the ear canal;
  • sound trauma, for example following a concert during which the music was too loud;
  • tinnitus, which also gives the sensation of ringing in the ears;
  • the presence of eczema in the ear, or psoriasis;
  • or even Menière’s disease (which refers to a condition of the inner ear that causes dizziness in particular).

Evolution and possible complications

Clogged ears are an unpleasant symptom that is often accompanied by poor hearing. An element that can lead, in the long term, to the withdrawal into oneself of the person who is affected.

Treatment and prevention: what solutions?

To “unclog” the ears, you have to tackle what caused their obstruction:

  • thus, in the event of otitis, it is advisable to disinfect the nasal cavities with saline, to take antibiotics if the doctors prescribe them, or to use drops in the auditory canal to help reduce the associated pain;
  • in the event of barotrauma, it is advisable to pinch your nose between two fingers and blow with your mouth closed (we speak of a balancing maneuver or Valsalva maneuver);
  • in the event of earwax blockage, a cerumenolytic product should be used to dissolve the blockage.

In order to prevent obstruction of the ears, due to an earwax plug, it is advisable to:

  • do not use a cotton swab, since they push back any plug (cerumen) at the bottom of the ear canal;
  • do not have too much hair in the ears, so that they are not an obstacle to the evacuation of earwax.
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