Experiencing that annoying feeling of needing to “pop” your ears can be super irritating. In fact, you might be unable to focus on anything else until you feel better. As with any health problem, the key to finding relief is knowing the root cause. Then, you can troubleshoot accordingly.
Otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon Dr. Steven Gold MD, says that if your ears feel clogged, it’s best to see a doctor instead of trying to figure it out on your own. “Clogged ears can be [a result of] several different causes. One shouldn’t assume they know the reason without an appropriate evaluation,” he says.
That said, there are some common reasons for this annoying feeling that ENT docs see on a regular basis. Listed here are seven of the most popular, which could help provide some insight into why you may be experiencing symptoms.
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7 Reasons Why Your Ears Feel Clogged
1. Earwax is causing a blockage
Even though Q-tips seem to be designed to remove earwax from the ears, Dr. Gold says that really all that’s needed to keep the ears clean is to wash them externally with soap and water. In fact, he says that earwax plays an important role in protecting the ears from infection. However, sometimes, ear wax can be pushed deep into the ear canal, which can create a blockage. “Excessive ear wax can cause symptoms of fullness, pressure, pain and hearing loss,” Dr. Gold says. If you think you have a blockage, the best course of action is to see your doctor instead of trying to unclog your ears yourself.
2. A sinus infection or allergies
Dr. Anthony Cornetta, MD, an otolaryngologist at NYU Langone Huntington Medical Group, says that if someone has a sinus infection or allergies, this can cause their ears to feel clogged. Dr. Cornetta explains that this happens because a sinus infection or allergies can cause the eustachian tube—which connects the back of the nose to the middle ear—to become inflamed, swollen or congested. When this happens, he says that the eustachian tube won’t allow air to flow to the middle ear as it usually does. This can cause fluid to pool in the middle ear, which then makes ears feel clogged.
“The easiest treatment is over-the-counter medication such as oral decongestants or allergy medication,” Dr. Cornetta says, adding that a nasal steroid spray can also be effective. “The fluid will also often resolve with time, but if it persists then it would be worthwhile seeing an otolaryngologist,” he adds.
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