Blocked Ears: Causes, Issues & Treatments

If you are experiencing pain in the ear, have noticed sudden hearing loss on one or both sides, or have a fever with any of the symptoms listed, seek professional medical attention immediately.

Have you ever experienced the feeling of a blocked ear or ears? Perhaps you’ve been sitting in an aeroplane after lift-off and felt the pressure building in your ears? Or maybe you have heard of severe ear blockages that led to eardrum rupture, hearing loss, nosebleeds, and infection. Yikes! 

There are several reasons why ears become blocked, and causes can include everything from Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD) to a simple earwax blockage. At A Better Ear, we recognize the symptoms of blocked ears and understand that these can be troubling. For everything from pain and discomfort in the ear, to reduced hearing and dizziness, we are committed to diagnosing the problem and helping to ease the pain and distress associated. Here, we break down the causes of a blocked ear, what issues can arise from it and your treatment options.

Causes and Issues

There are a variety of causes for a feeling of “blocked ears”, including the below:

Earwax blockage

Our bodies naturally produce earwax to protect the ear from elements such as water, fungi and bacteria. When excess earwax production occurs, or when the ear canal is narrow or is unusually shaped, the buildup can occur. This buildup of ear wax can harden over time and block the ear canal, potentially leading to hearing loss, earaches and infections.

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD)

Your eustachian tube is a small canal that runs from your middle ear to the back of the nose and upper throat. A ruptured eardrum, physical blockage or congestion and swelling from a sinus infection, might cause these tubes to become blocked. When this happens, the eustachian tube can’t drain mucus or adjust your ear pressure to the surrounding air pressure. This can lead to the sensation of ‘blocked ears’.

Otitis Externa

Also referred to as ‘swimmer’s ear’, otitis externa is a condition that can occur when your ears are exposed to water from a swimming pool, ocean or even the shower. Water can become trapped in the ear. Being a warm and moist environment, infection in the external auditory meatus (the ear canal; extending from the eardrum to the outside world) can easily occur. 

Otitis Media

The condition commonly referred to as ‘an ear infection’, or ‘glue ear’, otitis media refers to what occurs when fluids build up in the middle ear (within the eardrum) and a virus or bacteria begin to multiply in the fluid. An accumulation of fluid in the middle ear can be the result of sinus congestion, where the eustachian tube has become blocked. 

Barotrauma 

Commonly known as ‘aeroplane ear’, most people would recognise this as the feeling before your ears ‘pop’ when ascending or descending. Barotrauma occurs when your ears can’t properly adjust or equalise to changing air pressure. That is, the air pressure outside your body is different to the air pressure behind your eardrum. If you’re your ears won’t ‘pop’ and you think you may be experiencing barotrauma, the best option is to seek the advice of a qualified Audiologist or your GP to ensure the discomfort doesn’t escalate and causes damage to the eardrum.

Potential Treatments

Depending on the cause of your blocked ear, there is a range of potential treatments to consider, from minimally invasive at-home remedies to professional clinic services. Most people would know that to clear blocked ears caused by ‘aeroplane ear’, a quick fix is to drink water, chew gum, yawn widely or swallow frequently. For ‘swimmer’s ear’ speak to your pharmacist for an over-the-counter remedy such as DryEars Spray.

As for removing a build-up of hard earwax, the first step is to soften it at home using an oil-based earwax softener such as CleanEars Spray (also available from our clinic). Once the earwax has softened, we recommend visiting a specialist to remove the wax. At A Better Ear, we use a safe and comfortable method called microsuction to clear your blocked ears. Our audiologist will use a thin sterile tube and specially calibrated suction wand to gently remove the earwax from your ear. It’s a quick and easy process that doesn’t require a referral from a GP.

Blocked ears can be uncomfortable, inconvenient, and painful. If you’re struggling with a blocked ear, get in touch with A Better Ear today. Our unique approach to patient care means we not only diagnose and treat your condition, but we also explain it in easy-to-follow terms which helps you manage and prevent problems with your ear health in the future. With strong referral relationships with the best doctors in the Redlands, your hearing health is in good hands.

Disclaimer

All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion.

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