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Unclogged: Getting to the Bottom of Ear Congestion

Unclogged: Getting to the Bottom of Ear Congestion

Q: Why Do My Ears Feel So Congested?



A: Good question! When folks talk about congestion, most people naturally think about nasal passageways, but ears can feel pretty plugged up, too. Let’s talk about what might be going on when ears seem clogged, how it can affect your hearing, and how you can get some relief.

The sensation of plugged-up ears essentially means a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears — as if something is partially or completely filling the space within your ear canal. It can feel fairly innocuous, somewhat annoying, or even downright painful. It can also make sounds seem rather faint or make it difficult to hear altogether.

Any number of conditions can cause this sensation of fullness.
One possibility involves altitude-related air-pressure changes, which can produce symptoms such as clicking or popping in the ears, ear pain or blockage, and even temporary hearing loss.

Normally the eustachian tube, a narrow passageway from the ear to the back of the throat, helps keep pressure in the ear relatively equal. When external pressure changes quickly, however — like in air travel — your body might need a little extra help to get the ears back on track.

In this case, yawning, swallowing, chewing gum, or sucking on your favorite hard candy before the plane ascends or descends can help the eustachian tube equalize air pressure inside the ear. Holding your nose, closing your mouth, and softly blowing without exhaling air may also help — as long as you don’t have a sinus infection.

Other possible causes of ear congestion can include ear infection, head trauma, or a case of the common cold. Conditions such as Ménière’s disease are also potential contributors, making it important to seek a complete ear evaluation if you experience any fullness in one or both ears lasting more than a couple days or accompanied by ear pain, discharge, or ringing; balance issues; dizziness; or headaches.

Our caring experts can help you keep your hearing health in top shape, so don’t wait. Contact us to schedule a full examination, get answers to your questions, or discuss your hearing-health concerns today. We’re here to help!

Hitting the Water? Don’t Forget Your Swimmers’ Earplugs for Ear Protection!

You’ve packed the swimsuits, floats, safety vests, caps, goggles, kids, and snacks for a summer afternoon at the lake or neighborhood pool, but what about the earplugs?

These small accessories can make a big difference in keeping the good times going during family fun in the water. Before you go, here are four things to know about swimmers’ earplugs:

1. They Help Protect Against Ear Infection

Ears and moisture don’t always mix. Otitis externa, an outer-ear infection also known as ìswimmer’s ear,î is typically caused by bacterial or fungal growth when the skin in the ear canal potentially becomes irritated from activities such as swimming. Though treatable, the condition can lead to temporary hearing loss and other problems, so prevention matters. Using quality, properly inserted earplugs helps keep the water ó and the threat of infection ó out of your ears.

2. They Can Be Off the Shelf or Customized

It’s always nice to have options, and swimmers’ earplugs are no exception. They come in disposable, reusable, and custom-fit varieties and can be made from silicone or putty. Off-the-shelf earplugs are often readily available at local drugstores, but your local audiologist can create a better-fitting, washable set tailored to your unique ears. Take heed: Swimmers’ earplugs are not the same as hearing-protection earplugs and should be used only for water protection.

3. They’re Not Just for Swimmers

Earplugs can be your best friend when it comes to protecting your ears in water, but did you know they’re not just for swimming? That’s right! Folks who work outside in the heat all day, for example, can also use earplugs to keep the sweat away, so it’s good to have a couple extra pairs at home, the job site, or other convenient storage spots. Remember: If your ears have a chance of getting wet, protective earplugs are one of your best bets.

4. They’re a Solution for Adults and Children

You might think swimmers’ earplugs are just for grown-ups. Not so fast! Water in the ears can also pose a problem for kids, who are typically more vulnerable to ear infections than adults. Inserting earplugs before a swimming session or at bath time, keeping your child’s ear canals clean, and drying the ears after any amount of time in the water or other moist environment can help curb the risk of infection. And remember: Always use clean hands when inserting earplugs into your or your child’s ears.


Are you concerned about protecting your or your loved ones’ ears? Contact our caring team to schedule a complimentary hearing-protection consultation today. We’re happy to help with solutions for the whole family!