Why do my ears feel clogged?

  Posted July 8, 2019

There are times when you purposely plug your ears — think fingers or earplugs — and then there are, well, other times when your ears feel clogged for no good reason. Why is sound muffled when there doesn’t appear to be anything inside your ear canal? Here are four of the most common reasons why your ears might feel clogged.

Impacted earwax

Normally, earwax is the body’s way of protecting the ear. Its sticky consistency traps dirt and other pollutants, act as a lubricant, and because it naturally falls out of the ear canal on its own, serves as a natural self-cleaning agent. On occasion, however, it can become impacted and affect your ability to hear.

the following symptoms indicate earwax is causing a problem:

  • A feeling that the ear is clogged
  • An earache
  • Partial hearing loss
  • Tinnitus, or ringing in the ear
  • Itching, odor or discharge
  • Coughing

Fluid in the ear

Avid swimmers are likely too familiar with this painful condition; however, even non-swimmers can suffer from fluid in the ear, too. Fluid can develop in the ear for a couple of different reasons:

Ear infection — children and adults who develop middle ear infections may experience a plugged ear sensation due to fluid build-up behind the eardrum. Although this condition usually clears on its own, it can be painful. It’s time to call a doctor if the pain is severe, you notice a fluid discharge or symptoms persist for more than a day. Children younger than six months should be seen immediately.

Swimming or bathing — here’s another reason to appreciate earwax. It acts as a deterrent for water to enter the ear when you swim or bathe. Even so, there are times water can become trapped inside the Eustachian tubes from swimming, bathing or moist environments.

Sinus pressure

You may be familiar with stuffed nasal passages and facial tenderness brought about by sinus pressure, but did you know it can also cause temporary hearing loss? The sinus cavities, hollow spaces located in your bones near the nose and between the eyes, are also located beside the ear canal. When you experience an inflammation in your sinus cavities, it can cause your Eustachian tubes to swell. When that happens, the connection between the middle ear and throat is closed which puts pressure on the eardrum causing that clogged ear feeling — or worse — pain and hearing loss.

Fortunately, most hearing loss caused by sinus infection, pressure or sinusitis is temporary and hearing returns to normal once the sinus congestion clears. Even so, if you experience pain or sudden hearing loss due to sinus congestion, see your doctor.

Noise damage

If your ears feel clogged or you hear ringing in your ears after an evening with friends at the club or an afternoon in a rowdy sports stadium, it’s likely due to excessive noise exposure. Although these symptoms typically clear within 48 hours, you can prevent permanent hearing loss by taking precautions the next time you know you’ll be in a noisy environment:

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