Home remedies for blocked ears

May, 03, 2023

Having blocked ears can be uncomfortable but is fairly common. Luckily, there are many home remedies for blocked ears, but the one you should use depends on the cause.

One of the most common causes of blocked ears is a build-up of earwax. Still, things such as ear infections, sinus congestion, allergies, water in the ears, changes in air pressure (such as during air travel or scuba diving), or other underlying medical conditions can also cause this sensation of fullness.

Want to know how to unblock ears at home? Read on!

Why do ears get blocked with wax?

The ear canal naturally produces earwax to help protect and clean the ears. Usually, it’s made in small amounts and gradually moves to the outer ear, where it falls out or is washed away during bathing. But sometimes earwax can build up and block the ear canal, causing a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear, and can also reduce hearing, making sounds seem muffled. If you have particularly hard wax or too much compacted in your ear, it can cause pain and discomfort.

There are a few factors that can contribute to the build-up of earwax. For example, some people produce more earwax than others, which can increase the risk of blockages, and some have narrow or twisted ear canals that make it more difficult for earwax to move out of the ear. Another factor contributing to earwax blockages is using objects like cotton swabs to clean the ear canal. When you stick anything into your ear, you can accidentally push the earwax deeper into the canal and cause a blockage.

While earwax blockages are usually not serious, they can cause discomfort and reduce hearing. It's important to avoid using objects to clean your ear canal and to seek medical attention if you experience persistent earwax blockages or other ear-related symptoms.

How to unblock ears at home safely

Blocked ears are common; not surprisingly, many people simply want to know how to unblock ears at home. But remember, while some common home remedies can relieve blocked ears, others (such as ear candling) can be harmful, and seeking medical attention is always the best option if you are having difficulty hearing or notice any changes in your ears. 

Using olive oil to unblock ears

One of the best-known home remedies for blocked ears due to earwax build-up? Olive oil! Yes, that’s right – this kitchen staple can help break down earwax (though if you have a ruptured eardrum, do not try this method). Using a clean, sterilised dropper or syringe, drip two to three drops of room-temperature olive oil into the ear while lying on your side. Stay there for 5 to 10 minutes, then sit up and wipe away any excess oil. You may need to do this daily for a few days to have an effect.

Valsalva manoeuvre

If you’ve ever had blocked ears on an aeroplane, you’re probably already familiar with the Valsalva manoeuvre (though you may not have known its name). When you feel a build-up of pressure blocking your ears, take a deep breath in, hold it for a moment, then pinch your nostrils closed with your fingers and gently try to blow air out through your nose at the same time. You should feel a slight pressure in your ears. Keep blowing until you hear a gentle ‘pop’ or feel the pressure release.

While this technique won’t help ears blocked with wax, it can be helpful when you're experiencing ear discomfort due to a change in altitude, such as during air travel, or when you have a blocked ear due to congestion from a cold or sinus infection. It works by helping equalise pressure in the Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the throat, relieving the feeling of pressure in the ear and returning your hearing to normal.

Warm compress

A warm compress is one of the best home remedies for blocked ears resulting from a cold or sinus congestion, with the warmth helping unclog the ear and reduce any pain. Plus, it couldn’t be easier to do. Simply soak a cloth in warm water, squeeze out any excess, and then place the cloth over the affected ear for 5 to 10 minutes. 

When to seek help

It’s also important to remember what not to do when you have blocked ears – and that’s putting foreign objects, such as cotton swabs, into the ear. Why? This can worsen the blockage and/or damage the inner structures of your ear, such as the eardrum.

Blocked ears are often temporary and resolve on their own or with the help of home remedies. However, if the blockage or feelings of pressure or fullness persist, or you notice other symptoms such as pain, fever or discharge from your ears, it is important to seek medical attention as it could be a sign of a more serious condition.

To speak to one of our experts about blocked ears, make an appointment with your nearest Bay Audiology clinic today. 

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