How to unclog your ears the right way

Last update on Jul, 19, 2023

What causes a clogged ear?

Most individuals have likely encountered the feeling of a plugged or muffled ear on occasion due to various factors. Common causes of plugged ears include mucus and phlegm build-up in the Eustachian tube, water in the ear, altitude changes (often experienced during airplane flights), sinus infections, middle ear infections, allergies, and rhinitis. While both children and adults can experience plugged ears, it is more prevalent in children, particularly when they have a cold.

Remedies for clogged ears

There are several ways to unclog an ear, including pharmaceutical remedies as well as natural and home remedies. However, it is important to acknowledge that in certain situations, it may be necessary to consult a doctor for a thorough examination. 

In order to figure out how to unclog an ear, it is best to first identify whether the underlying problem originates from the middle ear, behind the eardrum, or in the outer ear, specifically the ear canal.

Tips for a clogged middle ear

To relieve clogged ears, try the Valsalva Maneuver by pinching your nose closed, keeping your mouth shut, and gently blowing through your nose to equalise pressure. Be cautious not to blow too forcefully. You can also use decongestants or nasal sprays to alleviate congestion, especially during flights or when experiencing nasal or sinus congestion.

These medications help reduce swelling and open up the nasal passages for better airflow and relief from ear pressure. Remember to consult a healthcare professional if symptoms persist or worsen, or if you have specific concerns about your ear health.

Natural remedies for uncorking the outer ear

If you wish to unclog your ears at home, you can try natural remedies, including over-the-counter ear cleaning drops containing natural oils and disinfectants, following the package instructions. Ear irrigation can be helpful as the softened earwax begins to clear. Applying a hot compress to the ear or taking a steamy shower for at least 5-10 minutes can also provide relief by utilising the steam to reach the ear canal. Remember to follow the guidelines provided with any products and consult a healthcare professional if symptoms persist or worsen.

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Actions to avoid to uncork ears

The ear is an extremely sensitive part of the body, requiring careful and gentle handling when attempting to unplug it. It's important to avoid two common methods for cleaning the ear: Q-tips and ear candles. Q-tips can push earwax deeper into the ear canal, potentially causing damage to the eardrum and promoting infections. Similarly, ear candles are unreliable and may leave residual earwax in the outer ear canal or on the eardrum, posing a risk of burning oneself and introducing hot wax into the ear canal. It's crucial to prioritise safe and effective methods for ear hygiene.

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When to see the doctor for clogged ears

While there are numerous home remedies for clogged ears, seeking medical advice can expedite the recovery process. If you experience symptoms like hearing loss, dizziness, earaches, or noises in the ears (tinnitus), it is best to consult a specialised doctor for an accurate diagnosis and to determine the most appropriate course of action for your specific condition. Although your symptoms may not necessarily indicate a severe underlying issue, it is important to have them evaluated.

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