How Do You Clear a Clogged Ear?


Man with his finger sticking in his ear

We can all agree – clogged ears are the worst, right? They’re uncomfortable, sometimes difficult to get rid of, and tend to happen during the most inconvenient times. Clogged ears are always annoying, giving you a full sensation or feeling like they need to pop, and can sometimes be downright painful.

So where does this annoyance come from, and what can you do to put a stop to it? Read on, because we have the answers you crave.

What Causes a Clogged Ear?

There are several different reasons why your ears might become clogged, and none of them are very fun:

  • Too much earwax
  • Water in your ear
  • A change in altitude or pressure
  • Sickness or allergies

Each of these can cause pressure to build up in your ears by affecting the Eustachian tube, which is a little canal that connects your middle ear to your throat and nasal cavity. The Eustachian tube regulates the air pressure between your nose and ears, acting like a little door that opens and closes to allow air bubbles to move around. When that little door gets stuck, either open or shut, the pressure in your ears changes and gives you that weird, full feeling in your ears.

Besides feeling uncomfortable, you might also become dizzy, have trouble keeping your balance, or suffer from some minor hearing loss.

Thankfully, there are several ways for you to clear your clogged ear.

Tips to Clear a Clogged Ear

The first two things you should try when popping your ears is to swallow and yawn – these actions help the Eustachian tube open and close, and forcing it to do so could clear your blockage and help the air pressure in your ears return to normal.

If swallowing and yawning don’t work, then your blockage might be a little more serious and you’ll have to try some different techniques. You can try nasal decongestants, a humidifier or warm washcloth, or pinching your nostrils and blowing your nose.

Want to know the one thing you should absolutely, under no circumstances, ever do to try to clear a clogged ear? Stick a cotton swab in your ear. You might think it’s clearing the waxy blockage that’s causing you problems, but you’re actually just making things worse by pushing the wax farther and farther into your ear. If you do this enough, you could end up with a serious problem on your hands that requires medical attention.

But wait, there’s more!

It’s crazy that people still need to be told this, but DO NOT light your ears on fire. That’s right, some people still think ear candling is a perfectly effective and safe way to clear clogged ears. It’s not. The thinking behind the technique is that when you light the ear candle, which is a hollow cone that fits in your ear, the heat pulls wax out of your ear. Want to know what actually happens? You can burn your ears, face, or neck, add more wax to your ear canal in the form of candle wax, puncture your eardrum, or permanently damage your middle ear. Also, your earwax will probably stay right where it was in the first place.

Seriously, don’t use an ear candle.

Will a Clogged Ear Cause Hearing Loss?

While you’re hearing might not be so great while your ears are clogged, the good news is you won’t suffer permanent hearing loss from an earwax blockage. If your ears won’t clear out on their own, however, you may have to visit a hearing specialist to find out what the problem is and to get more technical treatments. In the meantime, though, keep on swallowing and yawning!

Page medically reviewed by Kevin St. Clergy, Audiologist, on May 29, 2020.

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