Plugged ear: where does this sensation come from?
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Blocked ears are a common and most often benign symptom. For example, it is associated with many hearing disorders and pathologies affecting the ENT sphere or barotraumatic trauma (flying, diving). To overcome this symptom, its cause must be treated.


Having blocked ears is an unpleasant sensation, like a ringing, but frequent and usually not serious. This can happen when getting out of the bath or shower, on a plane, diving, or be related to conditions affecting the ENT sphere.

The symptom is accompanied by hearing loss, more or less marked. Pain, fever, and wheezing can also be associated with blocked ears, depending on the pathology or situation that caused it.


There are many pathologies that have as a symptom blocked ears. These include those in the ENT sphere:

  • nasopharyngitis, otherwise known as the common cold;
  • otitis, and especially otitis media (an infection of the middle ear, which concerns the eardrum or the tympanic box);
  • sinusitis(inflammation of the mucous membranes covering the inside of the sinuses – the bone cavities in the bones of the face).

In addition, let us mention:

  • earwax plug, which is the result of the accumulation of secretion from the external ear canal (earwax);
  • barotrauma in the ear, i.e. damage due to a change in pressure. This occurs, for example, during a plane trip (during take-off and landing), during a scuba dive with a tank, or in a pool when swimming underwater. In these cases, the external pressure differs from that of the internal cavities of the body, and the body must adapt gently;
  • Airborne barotraumatic otitis refers to inflammation of the ear (otitis) due to air travel. Logically, flight attendants are more likely to be affected by this type of pathology;
  • the presence of a foreign body in the ear canal;
  • sound trauma, for example as a result of a concert during which the music was too loud;
  • tinnitus, which also gives the sensation of having a ringing sound in the ears;
  • eczema in the ear, or psoriasis;
  • or Menière’s disease (which refers to a condition of the inner ear that causes dizziness).

Evolution and possible complications

Blocked ears are an unpleasant symptom that is often accompanied by poor hearing. An element that can lead, in the long term, to the withdrawal of oneself of the person who is affected.

Treatment and prevention: what solutions?

To “unclog” the ears, we must address what caused their obstruction:

  • Thus, in case of otitis, it is advisable to disinfect the nasal cavity with saline, to take antibiotics if prescribed by the doctors, or to use drops in the ear canal to help reduce the associated pain;
  • in case of barotrauma, it is advisable to pinch your nose between two fingers and blow with your mouth closed (this is called the balancing maneuver or Valsalva maneuver);
  • In the case of an earwax plug, use a cerumenolytic product that will dissolve the plug.

In order to prevent ear obstruction, due to earwax plugging, it is advisable to:

  • do not use cotton swabs, since they push the possible plug (earwax) to the bottom of the ear canal;
  • Do not have too much hair in the ears, so that they are not an obstacle to the evacuation of earwax.

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