Everyone has earwax, a sticky substance ears naturally produce. This waxy oil protects the ear from dust, dirt, and other foreign particles. Earwax also cleanses the ear canal, and research shows it offers protection against bacteria and fungi. Doctors recommend that people of all ages leave earwax alone unless the ears become clogged, causing noticeable discomfort or pain.
While earwax is natural and necessary for proper ear health, some bodies produce more than necessary, which leads to a buildup. Clogged ears are commonly caused by people using cotton swabs to remove wax, which can push the wax even further into the ear canal, resulting in pain and injury.
Many swimmers and other water athletes experience clogged ears. While water usually clears out of the ear on its own, sometimes the fluid becomes trapped and leads to clogged ears and ear infections. Clogged ears are the result of an obstruction in the eustachian tubes, which run from the middle ear to the back of the nose. People with clogged ears can try and get the water out by themselves, but if they experience continued itching or irritation, it’s best to see a doctor.
Another cause of clogged ears is changing air pressure. Many people experience this when they fly in airplanes or go scuba diving. These different altitudes can create a pressure imbalance inside the ear, which is why some travelers complain of ears feeling sore and stuffy. This discomfort is referred to as ear barotrauma and can be alleviated by simple measures like yawning, inhaling, exhaling, or chewing gum.
With so many causes of clogged ears, the majority of people will experience ear discomfort at some point in their lives. The main signs of earwax blockages and clogged ears include temporary hearing loss, ringing or buzzing sensations, and earaches. If the blockage leads to an infection, pain may worsen, along with itching and irritation. Some at-home remedies can help clear up the clog and reduce discomfort.
One common way to ease clogged ears is with mineral oil. Although mineral oil can be purchased over-the-counter without a prescription in many cases, it’s still wise to check in with a medical professional prior to trying this treatment. Mineral oil is ideal for ear wax buildup, as it turns wax into a soft substance that drains from the ear on its own. A few drops before bed can prevent future buildup, too.
People with clogged ears may try hydrogen peroxide treatment, which will soften the hardened wax and resolve pressure, particularly when the ear is flushed out after a few days. This is one of the most common home treatments for clogged ears, and doctors often recommend it for people who do not have tubes or holes in their eardrums.
Another way to improve clogged ears is by using a cold or warm compress or steam in the shower. Placing the compress over the ear or taking a hot shower for at least five minutes will introduce enough heat and steam to loosen up ear wax and clear clogs in some cases. Doctors suggest people try this method first when they notice a problem, so long as they are careful to make sure the compress is not hot enough to cause discomfort or burns.
If mineral oil, hydrogen peroxide, baby oil, or olive oil fails to work, ear irrigation is the next step to clear blockages. U.S. doctors perform eight million ear irrigations in medical offices every year, and studies show that it’s safe for people to irrigate their own ears, as long as they do so carefully. People with clogged ears can flush out softened ear wax with a few drops of warm water from a syringe.
A lot of people who regularly experience clogged ears invest in ear drops available online or at pharmacies. Ear drops are similar to oil and hydrogen peroxide treatments: the right mixture can soften blockages and help the clogged ears clear naturally. Wax is often easier to get out after applying eardrops, which is why doctors often recommend this at-home remedy.
Although there are several options for clearing clogged ears at home, sometimes an ear infection persists and medical treatment is required. People who experience continued earache, ringing sounds, hearing loss, dizziness, or discharge may benefit from medical assistance with alleviating clogged ears and getting earwax under control. Whatever the circumstances, people with clogged ears should avoid trying to remove the ear wax with cotton swabs, bobby pins, or fingers. Opt for doctor-approved at-home treatments or a trip to the clinic, instead.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.