Why is my ear blocked?

Are you frequently experiencing blocked ears? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Blocked ears are a regular occurrence for many people, due to a variety of reasons.

In today’s article, we will explore why your ears are becoming blocked and how this can be treated.

Common causes of blocked ears

Blocked ears are a common concern for many, and can occur due to various factors. One reason why the ear may be blocked is built-up ear wax. The body naturally produces ear wax to prevent dust or debris from entering the inner ear canal. 

“If the body naturally produces ear wax, then why are my ears blocked?” I hear you ask. Well, sometimes the body can produce too much ear wax which is not uncommon and it’s nothing to be worried about if that’s the case. However, if your ears are cleaned incorrectly, this will lead to built-up ear wax within the ear. 

Another reason why your ears could be blocked is allergies. Allergic reactions trigger inflammation in the nasal passages and eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the back of the throat. This inflammation can lead to congestion and fluid buildup in the middle ear, causing pressure and discomfort. 

Furthermore, sinus infections are another common cause of blocked ears. Like with any infection, this is caused by viruses or bacteria that extend to the eustachian tubes; leading to ear blockage. The infection will cause swelling and mucous to appear, which can prevent drainage of fluid from the ear. As a result, you will experience ear fullness, pain, and temporary hearing loss. 

Penultimately, a change in air pressure is a frequent cause of blocked ears, typically experienced from flying or diving in deep waters. The pressure changes affect the balance of pressure between the middle ear and the surrounding environment, which leads to discomfort or even temporary hearing loss. Fortunately, this can be resolved fairly quickly. Chewing or swallowing can help ease the pressure and alleviate the symptoms – you just have to be patient with it.

Finally, objects such as cotton buds can cause immense ear blockage. Pushing a cotton bud deep into the ear canal to “clean” your ears only makes it worse. The further the wax is pushed down, the more blocked your ears become. You can unintentionally cause an injury!

air pressure causing blocked ears

Symptoms of blocked ears

Now you’re aware of the common causes of blocked ears, you need to be able to spot the symptoms. 

Arguably the most common symptom of blocked ears is reduced hearing or hearing loss. When the ear canal or middle ear is blocked, the sound will struggle to reach the inner ear, resulting in decreased hearing. This reduction in hearing can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the blockage. 

Another symptom of blocked ears is a feeling of fullness or pressure in the affected ear. This sensation is similar to having water trapped in the ear after swimming but can persist for longer periods. The pressure may cause discomfort and can sometimes be accompanied by pain, particularly if the blockage is due to inflammation or infection.

Furthermore, blocked ears can also lead to imbalance or dizziness, if the inner ear is affected. The inner ear plays a crucial role in balance and spatial orientation, and disruptions in its function can result in sensations of spinning or unsteadiness. This symptom can be distressing and could interfere with daily activities such as walking or driving.

In addition, some cases of blocked ears can cause ringing or buzzing sounds in the ear, a condition known as tinnitus. Tinnitus can be persistent or intermittent and may vary in intensity. It can be bothersome and distracting, affecting concentration and sleep quality.

Beyond the immediate symptoms, untreated blocked ears can have broader effects on overall health and well-being. Persistent hearing loss can impact communication, leading to social isolation and difficulty in academic or work settings. Chronic ear infections associated with blockage can result in complications such as eardrum perforation or the spread of infection to nearby structures.

If you begin to spot any of these symptoms, it’s important to contact a specialist straight away. Here at the Hearing Specialist, we can help. Our talented and experienced audiologists can easily alleviate your blocked ear symptoms. Reach out to us today to get the support you need. 

How to treat a blocked ear?

When it comes to treating blocked ears, the approach depends on the underlying cause. For mild cases of ear wax buildup, microsuction is a safe and effective procedure used by audiologists. During microsuction, a small suction device is used to gently remove excess wax from the ear canal, which provides immediate relief without the need for eardrops or olive oil. This method is preferred over traditional syringing as it reduces the risk of injury and is suitable for individuals with a perforated eardrum or underlying ear conditions.

Furthermore, if allergies are contributing to your blocked ears, they may be managed with antihistamines or nasal sprays to reduce inflammation in the nasal passages and eustachian tubes.

Also, as mentioned in a previous section, if you’re experiencing blocked ears due to air pressure there are various techniques you can use to resolve it. Swallowing, yawning, or chewing gum can help ease the pressure while you’re flying. Nasal sprays may also be used before ascent and descent to help keep Eustachian tubes open.

built up ear wax

At the Hearing Specialist, our audiologists use microsuction to safely remove ear wax from your ears at our three clinics in Wimbledon, Wallington, and Teddington. At the start of the appointment, the audiologist will examine your ear using an otoscope, which provides a detailed view of your condition.

This will help assess the amount of wax buildup and pinpoint any blockages accurately. Following the assessment, the microsuction device is carefully inserted into the ear canal, smoothly suctioning away excess wax. This process is conducted with precision and care, ensuring a comfortable and pain-free experience throughout. Book your ear wax microsuction appointment with us today, and return your hearing to where it should be with ease!