Clogged ears, also known as plugged ears, are the result of blockage in the Eustachian tube. This tube serves as the connection between the pharynx and the middle ear, and plays a fundamental role in the balance of pressure between both sides of the eardrum. The cells that line this tube are similar in structure to the cells that line the nasal cavity. For this reason, they react in the same way to triggers that change the structure of the nasal cavity. These triggers include common cold, infections of the respiratory system and allergic reactions.
In addition to its fundamental function of maintaining balance at an equilibrium, the Eustachian tube also has a peripheral function which is to get rid of any secretions that pool in the middle ear cavity. To ensure that these functions are coordinated seamlessly, there are muscular structures at the back of the throat whose purpose is to manage the opening and closing of the Eustachian tube. The Eustachian tube is usually sealed to ensure that there is no cross contamination from the nasal cavity.
The blockage of this tube places you at the risk of clogged ears. Some of the symptoms of clogged ears include ear pain, fullness of the ear and popping sounds. If the function of this tube is distorted, pressure in the middle cavity falls, and the ears feel clogged. Some of the causes of this blockage include the common cold and allergic reactions as mentioned above, as well as sinuses and trauma to the head in the ear region.
The connection between the ears and the nose means that some of the remedies for clogged ears will overlap with remedies for the common cold.Before you reach out for pharmaceutical products to treat your clogged ears, try out these natural remedies, most of which have ingredients that are easy to get.
1. Handy Remedies That Help to Balance Pressure in Clogged Ears:
Time Required: 5 Min
What You Need: Nothing
One of the simplest ways of dealing with clogged ears is to equalize pressure through simple time-tested techniques. These techniques will ensure your Eustachian tube functions normally.
- Try chewing gum to balance the pressure in your ears. This is especially important if you are prone to clogged ears during flights (especially during takeoff and landing).
- Other techniques with the same results include yawning and swallowing or gulping large amounts of air.
- You could also sample the Valsalva technique which revolves around exhaling against a sealed air pathway.
- Simply close your nostrils by gently pinching your nose.
- Try to exhale through the pinched nose gently. Do not go overboard by trying to breathe forcefully as this could result in the damage of your eardrums.
- This process ought to be pain-free. When you hear a ‘pop’ sound in your ears, you will realize that the feeling of clogged ears has dissipated.
NB: This simple technique however, is not recommended for young children as it may be difficult to gauge the amount of force used without weighing the risk of damaged eardrums.
2. Warm Compress:
Time Required: 15 Min
What You Need: A clean washcloth or towel, warm water or a hot water bottle and towel.
The idea of using a warm compress as a home remedy for clogged ears is to allow the warmth of the compress to ease the pain and allow for de-congestion, thus soothing the ear. This is a simple remedy, one that you can repeat three times a day with absolutely no side effects.
- Warm some water and transfer it to a medium-sized bowl.
- Soak the towel in the warm water and squeeze it to get rid of excess water.
- Place the towel on each ear and let it stay in place for about 10 minutes.
- The other alternative to using the warm compress is the hot water bottle.
- Simply wrap the bottle in the warm towel and place it over your ears for the same duration of time.
3. Warm Salt Water Gargle:
Time Required: 5 Min
What You Need: A teaspoon of salt, a cup of warm water.
Having mentioned the connection between clogged ears, the common cold and blocked nose, it comes as no surprise that the use of warm salt water to gargle (which incidentally, is used as a home remedy for the common cold) is also effective in treating clogged ears. The salt not only eases congestion, it also aids in the draining of mucus and fluid from the nasal cavity. The warmth of the water is also helpful in this home remedy as it soothes the ears.
- Add the teaspoon of salt to the cup of warm water.
- Sip some of the solution and swish it around the mouth for a perfect gargle. Do this for up to a minute at a go.
- Spit out the solution and repeat the process a couple more times, making sure you use this remedy at least thrice daily.
4. Nasal Saline Spray:
Time Required: 25 Min.
What You Need: Half teaspoon of salt, a cup of warm water, half teaspoon of baking soda, a clean – preferably sterilized – bottle to store the stock solution and a nose dropper (While a neti-pot is designed for the nasal saline spray, the dropper makes for a perfect replacement) and handkerchief.
Clogged ears that result from infection of the sinuses respond well to this particular home remedy. Nasal saline drops go a long way in easing congestion in the nasal cavity. The effect of this unblocking not only clears your stuffy nose, it also relieves the feeling of fullness in your ears. The purpose of adding baking soda to the saline spray solution is to reduce the stinging effect of salt in the nasal cavity. The baking soda also prevents the nasal membranes from drying out as a result.Listed below are the directions you need to follow to prepare homemade nasal saline spray.
- Boil the water to sterilize it and reduce the risk of getting an infection from this home remedy.
- Make sure your stock container is also sterilized. The most effective way of getting this done is to boil it for about 5 minutes.
- Put the salt in the sterilized container and transfer the boiled water before adding the baking soda.
- Using the syringe, squeeze some of the saline solution into the nose dropper or neti-pot.
- Tilt your head to that side and squeeze a few drops of the saline solution into the nose.
- Allow the saline solution to drain from the nose. Occasionally, it may drain through the mouth, so you can always spit it out.
- At the end of the procedure, make sure you blow your nose to allow for your ears to unclog.
- Repeat this procedure with the other nostril.
- This remedy can be used up to thrice daily.
- Store the stock solution in a cool and dry place, and discard any solution that remains after the second day to increase efficiency.
5. Tea Tree Oil:
Time Required: 30 Min
What You Need: 5 Drops of tea tree oil, a glass of boiling water OR three drops of tea tree oil, a tablespoon of olive oil and a dropper.
Tea tree oil is an effective home remedy for the treatment of clogged ears, thanks to its diverse properties. The oil has antiseptic properties, is a strong antimicrobial and its antibacterial properties make it effective in getting rid of causative agents for a host of infections in the ear, nose throat system. There are two ways in which you can make use of tea tree oil.
The first is a combination of the oil and steam therapy, while the second involves trickling the oil in the affected ear(s). Note that tea tree oil MUST NEVER be used orally as it is toxic to the body.The use of olive oil in the second method is for the purposes of dilution.
- Bring to boil a glass of water and using a dropper, add five drops of tea tree oil to the water.
- Bend your head slightly so that the steam from the hot water penetrates the affected ear. This technique may prove to offer quick relief for clogged ears.
- The second method involves mixing the tea tree oil and olive oil to create a diluted mixture that will be gentle on the clogged ears.
- Use a dropper to suck some of the oil and squeeze some of the oil so that it trickles into the ear.
- The oil causes the mucus blocking the Eustachian tube to flow out, providing relief for clogged ears.
6. Olive Oil:
Time Required: 15 Min
What You Need: Olive oil, a dropper or bulb syringe
Olive oil works excellently in cases where clogged ears are the result of wax accumulation in the ears. Extreme amounts of wax in the ear can solidify and become really hard so that the wax sets itself in the cavity of the ear. The first instinct, for most people, is to use an ear bud or pin to try and get rid of the hardened wax.
This, however, has dire consequences as it poses the risk of lodging the wax further into the ear. Olive oil works wonders to unclog ears in such a case. This is because it allows the ear wax to soften, and therefore easy to get rid of. In addition to this, the olive oil causes the wax to disintegrate so that it is even easier to get rid of. Below are the steps you need to follow when using olive oil.
NB: It is important to note that for patients with perforated eardrums, the use of olive oil must be avoided at all costs as it could compound the problem.
- Use a bulb syringe to suck some of the olive oil.
- It is recommended to use this product just before bed time so that its action is slow, steady and undisturbed.
- Lie down and squeeze three drops of the olive oil into the blocked ear.
- Lie down so that the ear containing the olive oil faces upwards. This will allow its penetration into the ear.
- Repeat this procedure for 4 consecutive nights. On the 5th night, use warm water in place of the olive oil. The purpose of using warm water is to allow the wax to fall out of the ears with relative ease, thus opening up the clogged ears.
Clogged ears may occur for a number of reasons, ranging from imbalanced ear pressure, to hardened wax to accumulated fluid in the ear. The different natural home remedies are an excellent solution to most of these conditions. If, however, even after the use of natural remedies you do not get any relief, you must get a doctor’s appointment as this could be an indication of a more serious illness.