Blocked or clogged ears can interfere with normal hearing not to mention cause earache, a muffled-sound sensation, a ringing sound, and dizziness. The first line of treatment for blocked ears is over the counter ear drops but before you go to that you may want to try numerous home remedies for blocked ears listed on this page.
Blocked Ear Causes
Before discussing how to get rid of blocked ears, what about we start with a breakdown of what causes blocked ears? Below are the most common factors for ear blockage:
- Accumulation of water in the Eustachian tube: It is common to feel clogged when the ear becomes blocked with water e.g. after swimming.
- Earwax accumulation: Ear wax plays an essential role in keeping the ear canal clean and free of infection but can buildup to such a high level that it causes clogging. Factors such as excessive secretion of ear wax, production of too thick or dry wax, very hairy or narrow ear canal, ageing (leading to secretion of low quality ear wax), growths in the ear canal, and regular use of solid objects e.g. hearing aids, cotton buds etc. can culminate in buildup of ear wax.
- Common cold and sinus congestion (infection): Sinus and nasal congestion due to common cold is one of the most common blocked ear causes. This is because the sinuses and ears are linked together by the Eustachian tubes which when troubled becomes less effective at equalizing air pressure leading to clogged ears.
- Pressure differences: You may also feel as though your ears are blocked after flying or hiking at high altitude. This is attributed to changes in atmospheric pressure.
How to Get Rid Of Blocked Ears
Some cases of ear blockage clear on their own with time. For example, symptoms of blocked areas after travelling on an airplane go away as soon as ear pressure balances. Painful blocked ear may be so intolerable that sitting around waiting for it to clear gets out of the question. You may also just wish to get the condition under control faster even if not painful. Whatever the case, you can get relief from using one of the following over the counter treatments and DIY home remedies:
Put the Valsalva maneuver into Action
One of the best natural home remedies for blocked ears, Valsalva maneuver works by balancing air pressure in the middle ear. The idea is to try exhaling with both the nostrils and mouth closed as follows:
- Take a deep breath
- With the mouth closed, close your nostrils by pinching them with your fingers.
- Blow air out of your nose gently until you hear a faint pop sound (an indication that the Eustachian tube has opened up, assuming you did this correctly).
- Once done, open your mouth and nose to resume normal breathing process.
Caution: To avoid damage to the ear drum, don’t “blow the air out” too hard.
How to get rid of blocked ears doesn’t get any easier than this. To use this natural remedy to unclog the ears, follow the steps below:
- Twist your jaws: With your mouth open widely, twist your jaws gently from side to side. Repeat the process until you hear a faint “pop” sound and voila! You have fixed the ear blockage.
- Chew a gum: Jaw movements from chewing a gum can have a similar effect on air pressure. The movements help to loosen up the substances in your ears (especially earwax) and thus open the Eustachian tube. For dental care purposes, consider chewing a sugar-free gum.
- Yawn: It sounds so easy to be true but yawning can actually help to get rid of a blocked ear naturally by regulating air pressure in the ear.
Olive oil is particularly effective for ear blockage caused by buildup of wax. It helps to soften the wax and thus make it easier to flow out of the ear naturally.
- Warm some extra virgin olive oil in an oven or saucepan.
- Pour a few drops into the clogged ear and then allow it to work for 5 to 10 minutes.
- With the head positioned sideways, remove the oil alongside any ear wax using a cotton bud.
If you don’t have olive oil, baby oil and mineral can as well do the trick.
Steam is also a great natural remedy for blocked ears especially one that is caused by ear wax or nasal and sinus congestion. This simple process will help to thin out any earwax or mucus responsible for the stuffiness in ears and/or sinuses:
- Pour boiling water into a large bowl.
- Drape your head in a heavy towel and then lean over the steaming bowl.
- Inhale the steam steadily until the clogged-up feeling disappears.
A hot steamy shower can also have a positive effect on clogged ears.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Alcohol
Apple cider vinegar not only helps to soften ear wax but also get rid of bacterial infection. Rubbing alcohol is also effective against microorganisms and together with apple cider vinegar, they constitute a great combo for opening up blocked ears. How to get rid of blocked ears with alcohol and vinegar is as easy as outlined below:
- Mix rubbing alcohol and apple cider vinegar in equal proportions.
- Using a dropper or bulb syringe, pour 2 to 3 drops of the mixture into the affected ear while lying on your side.
- Let it work in for 10 minutes or so.
Garlic Remedy for Clogged Ears
Garlic is a powerful natural antibiotic. When used alongside any warm oil of your choice, it constitutes a very effective natural remedy for blocked ears. Below is a guideline:
- Peel 2-3 garlic cloves and chop them into small pieces.
- Drop them in some olive, mustard, or sesame oil and then heat the oil gently for a few minutes.
- Allow the mixture time to cool down, then remove the garlic pieces before pouring 2-3 drops of the resulting liquid into the blocked ear while lying on the side.
- Repeat the process a couple times each day until you get relief from ear blockage.
If I had to single out the single best home remedy for blocked ears, it would be hydrogen peroxide. It is particularly useful for blocked ears due to ear wax buildup. Below is how to get rid of blocked ears using hydrogen peroxide:
- Pour 2 to 3 drops of 3% hydrogen peroxide (no higher concentration than 3% to avoid ear drum damage) into the clogged ear using a dropper or bulb syringe. You will notice a fizzing sound as hydrogen peroxide work on the ear wax.
- After about 10 minutes (the fizzing sound will have stopped by now), move your head to the opposite side to drain off the hydrogen peroxide.
Address Sinus Congestion to Get Rid Of Blocked Ears
As already stated, there exists a connection between the sinuses and ears and sinus congestion is often the culprit for clogged ears. If you recently or are currently suffering from a bout of cold, you may want to use the following home remedies to get rid of nasal and sinus congestion and thus ear plugging:
- Flush the nasal cavity and sinuses open with a neti pot.
- Run a humidifier to keep your nasal cavity and sinuses moist. This helps to loosen the mucus stuffed in there and thus decongest the nose and sinuses and by extension the ears.
- Take over the counter decongestants such as pseudoephedrine for no any longer than 3 days.
Use Ear Drops for Blocked Ears Treatment
If the above home remedies for blocked ears don’t help or you feel you would rather just go for an over the counter treatment, then ask for ear drops at your local drugstore (pharmacy). Ear drops are formulated to soften the ear wax and thus aid in its natural flow from the ears.
The ingredients found in OTC products range from sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to almond oil and olive oil among others. Ear drops are however not recommended for people with perforated ear drums.
Tea Tree Oil
The health benefits of tea tree oil are wide reaching thanks to its natural antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory action. It is particularly recommended for blocked ears causes by cold. Here is how to use tea tree oil for the purpose:
- Bring a glass of water to a boil.
- Pour 2 to 3 drops of pure tea tree oil.
- Inhale the steam rising from the water-tea tree essential oil mixture for relief from sinus and ear blockage.
You can also treat the clogged ear directly as outlined below:
- To a bowl containing a glass of boiling water, add a couple drops of tea tree oil. Tilt your head over the bowl so that the steam rises directly into your ear.
- Alternatively, mix 2 to 3 drops of tea tree oil to a little warm olive oil and then pour a few drops of the resulting mixture into your ears using a dropper or bulb syringe.
Use the Toynbee Maneuver
This is yet another very effective mechanical home remedy for blocked ears relief. The Toynbee maneuver entails the following:
- Sip a mouthful of water from a glass.
- With your mouth closed, pinch your nostrils tight and then swallow the water.
- Repeat steps 1 and 2 several times as necessary to get rid of blocked ears.
Jump On One Foot
This blocked ear opening technique takes advantage of gravitational force to remove water from clogged ears and is especially useful for clogging that results from swimming.
- With the head slanting towards the side of the clogged ear, stand on one foot and then hop several times.
- Repeat until water flows out and the ear blockage clears.