Ear congestion is an annoying problem that afflicts most people at some point. Colds, sinus infections, changes in altitude, and buildup of ear wax can all cause blocked ears. It may also be result of using foam earplugs extensively.
Though it might be tempting to try to clean out your ears with cotton swabs, resist the urge, as this can damage your eardrums or push ear wax deeper into your ears, making the problem worse.
If your ears feel clogged and your hearing is muffled, try one of these gentle at-home methods to get rid of the blockage.
6 Popular Remedies for a Plugged Ear You Can Use Right Away
1. Apple cider vinegar and rubbing alcohol
Mix equal parts of apple cider vinegar and rubbing alcohol. Using a dropper, insert a few drops into the affected ear. Keep your head tilted or lie on your side and keep the mixture in your ear for 10 minutes, then drain onto a cotton pad. The combination of vinegar and alcohol helps get rid of fluid in your ear and can also break down a buildup of ear wax.
If you have a cold, a steam treatment can loosen mucus and unblock your ears. With a towel draped over your head, place your face over a bowl or pan of hot, steaming water. Add essential oil or tea to the water if you like. Alternately, try using a humidifier, or take a long, hot shower.
3. Valsava maneuver
If your ears feel blocked due to changes in air pressure, e.g. while in an airplane, try the Valsava maneuver. Close your mouth, pinch your nose, and exhale gently. You should feel a “pop” in your ears. It’s important to be gentle while doing the Valsava maneuver, as exhaling too hard can damage your eardrums.
4. Warm oil
Ear wax has an oily base, so if you have a buildup in your ears, a warm oil treatment works to dissolve the blockage. Warm some olive oil or coconut oil in a pan or put a dropper full of oil into a bowl of warm water for a few minutes. Put a few drops of oil into the blocked ear and leave it in for at least 10 minutes, then drain onto a cotton pad.
Repeat twice a day. For an extra-strength treatment, crush a few garlic cloves and heat them in the oil before putting the oil in your ear. Garlic has natural anti-bacterial properties that can help clear up any infection that might be aggravating your symptoms.
5. Hot compress
Heat can help loosen a buildup of ear wax and relieve any pain associated with an ear infection. Soak a washcloth in hot water, wring it out, and hold it to your ear for relief. Re-soak the washcloth in fresh hot water when it gets cold. An electric blanket also makes a good compress.
6. Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide can help clear up any infection in the ears and break down ear wax. Put a few drops in the blocked ear and leave it there for at least 10 minutes or until the fizzing noise stops. Don’t overdo the hydrogen peroxide, though, because it can dry out the insides of your ears and cause itchiness.
Plugged Ear Home Remedies- The Bottom Line
There are many ways to unblock your ears at home without resorting to cotton swabs. Be patient and allow up to a week to see results. If none of these treatments work for you after a week or if you have ear pain, see a doctor. A medical professional can treat an infection or irrigate your ear, restoring your hearing and making you feel like yourself again.