Having your ears feel clogged is a common occurrence among people of all ages. However, it is the children with colds that suffer the most. Reasons for ears becoming clogged vary depending on the person and the circumstance. 

 The symptoms vary as well; some may suffer severe pain while others do not feel any pain. One of the most common symptoms is a headache due to the pain and inability to sleep. Never ignore a clogged ear as it may be a sign of an infection that could lead to possible hearing loss.

Why Do My Ears Feel Clogged?

Your ears may feel clogged for many reasons from flying in an airplane to the common cold. Here are the top three reasons that your ears may feel plugged.

Trapped Fluid

The auditory tube rids your ears of excess debris by sending it to your throat through the auditory tube. When your auditory tube becomes blocked in your middle ear it can trap fluid. This tube can become blocked due to enlarged tonsils, adenoids, or congestion caused by a cold or allergies. It is more common in children because they have smaller auditory tubes. If left untreated, the blockage can lead to dizziness, loss of balance, severe pain, or hearing loss.


Changes in Altitude

Rapid changes in the ambient pressure can make your ears feel clogged. The auditory tube, in conjunction with the ear drum, helps to equalize the pressure between the middle ear and outer ear. When you drive up a steep mountain or take off in an airplane, the altitude quickly changes, causing your ears to feel clogged. 

When scuba diving, your ears can feel clogged as well because the altitude drops; when diving, it is important that you take extra precautions as your ear drum may also rupture, causing other ear injuries. One way to prevent the feeling of your ears being clogged is to swallow or yawn to help adjust the pressure.


Buildup of Earwax

Too much earwax can cause your ears to feel clogged as well. Your ears have a natural cleaning system so this is an uncommon experience, however a small portion of the population does produce large amounts of excess earwax. 

When you find an excessive amount of earwax within your ear, it is important that you let your doctor help you remove it as your ear is very fragile and they have the proper tools.

What Can I Do If My Ears Feel Clogged?

When your ears feel like they are full of cotton balls, there are many ways you can help unclog them before you need to contact your doctor. Below are 7 of these home remedies that can be used to help relieve the sensation of plugged ears.

Olive Oil

Very similar to the alcohol and vinegar method, you will be placing a few drops in your ear. Heat some olive oil, baby oil, or mineral oil up to a lukewarm temperature. Then lie on your side and place a few drops in your ear covering with a cotton pad and lay still for a few minutes. Use a cotton ball to wipe up any excess oil and earwax.


Garlic Oil

Mash two garlic cloves with a knife and heat in a sauce pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil for a few seconds. Then, let the mixture cool until lukewarm. As with the methods above, drip into your ear and let it set for about a minute, then tip your head to the side and let it drain.


Valsalva Maneuver

This is the most commonly referred to treatment for ears feel clogged. Take a deep breath, pinch your nose, and then breathe out while still pinching your nose. This is a great way to unclog your ears, especially if you are on an airplane or going up a mountain.


Alcohol and Vinegar

Mix one part rubbing alcohol and one part vinegar to form a solution that will dilute any earwax buildup. Lie down on one side and use a dropper to put a few drops of the mixture in your ear. Place a gauze pad or cotton ball over the opening (not inside) of your ear. Lie still for a few minute to allow the solution to work. You will be able to feel as the ear canal becomes unplugged.


Warm Cloth

There are two ways you can use a warm cloth to unclog your ears. The first way is to heat the cloth with an iron or sunlight and place it under the clogged ear for a few minutes. The second way is to soak the cloth in hot water and squeeze out any excess water. Then you will want to lie down on your side and place the damp cloth on your ear for several minutes. Next, remove the cloth and roughly rub your ear with your palm, then press your palm tightly onto your ear and pull it off. This will act like a suction cup to unclog your ear.


Hydrogen Peroxide

Use a dropper to drip a couple drops of hydrogen peroxide into the affected ear if your ears feel clogged. You will hear a fizzing sound. Wait until the fizzing stops, then tilt your head to the side and let it drain. Earwax will drain out with the liquid.



Using a neti pot or other method such as a hot shower to inhale steam into your sinuses. This is a great way to relieve clogged ears. Keep in mind that the steam may also loosen earwax, causing your ears to become clogged a bit more before clearing them. Adding tea tree oil or lavender will also help.


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