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Ear Blockage - Causes and Diagnosis

Written by
Dr. Ashok Kumar Srivastava
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Sep 13, 2014 and last reviewed on Jun 13, 2022   -  1 min read


Ear blockage is a common problem, which can be caused by wax in the ear, fungal infection, trauma, etc. Read the article to know the other causes and treatments.

Ear Blockage - Causes and Diagnosis

Blockade of ear is a very common complaint. Since it’s onset is always sudden patients feel very uncomfortable. In resting phase our ear keeps on sending sound impulses to the brain and in this way everyone remains aware of the surrounding atmosphere. Any situation which decreases the mobility of the ear drum may cause ear blockade.

Causes of Ear Blockade

All the above are easily diagnosed by taking detailed history of the disease and by doing clinical examination.


Diagnosis may be verified by the following investigations (hearing tests).

  1. Pure Tone Audiometry (PTA).
  2. Impedance Audiometry.

All the above have different modes of treatment and hence treated accordingly.

If you have any questions on Ear Blockade, consult an ENT otolaryngologist online --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/ENT-Otolaryngologist

Frequently Asked Questions


Why Is My Ear Suddenly Blocked?

Ear blockage can be due to segregation of earwax, ear infection, swimmer’s ear or infection of the external ear canal, auditory tube blockage due to flu or sinusitis, altered pressure in high altitudes, or airplane ear, etc. Though ears get blocked suddenly, the underlying cause of ear blockage may or may not be sudden. For example, earwax takes a long time to accumulate.


What Are the Causes of Painless Ear Blockage?

Ear blocks occur in varied conditions like enlarged adenoids and tonsils that cause accumulation of the fluid in the auditory tube, clogged earwax, common cold, altered atmospheric pressure, extreme hunger, etc. In addition, pain may occur in some people, and no pain except for decreased hearing ability in some people.


What Causes Ear Block While Getting Up in the Morning?

Sleeping on the left side with the left ear against the pillow causes left ear and nose blockage due to restricted pressure equalization ventilation (barostriction). In addition, the presence of clogged earwax can also cause ear blockage early in the morning due to its movement within the ear or further clumping with the newly forming waxes.


Does Ear Canal Blockage Cause Anything Serious?

Ear block can cause pain and temporarily reduce hearing that can be reversed by treating the underlying cause. But in severe conditions like ear barotrauma or damage to the ear due to pressure imbalance, permanent hearing loss can occur.


Why Do I Have a Feeling of a Blocked Ear?

The feeling of a blocked ear can be due to varied causes like earwax build-up, blocked auditory canal, pressure imbalance, flu, sinusitis, ear infection, inserting any foreign objects inside the ear, extreme hunger, and forcefully breathing through the closed nose and mouth.


What Are the Ways to Cure a Blocked Ear?

Antibiotic ear drops, Valsalva maneuver (tightly closing the nose with fingers and mouth closed and trying to blow through the nose slowly) will help pop open the auditory canal, hydrogen peroxide rinse to dissolve the earwax, nasal spray in case of sinus infection, movements chewing, yawning, and swallowing. Visit an ENT specialist if nothing works.


Will a Blocked Ear Open by Itself?

A blocked ear may or may not open or unclog by itself. Based on the cause and its severity, it may prolong for days, worsen, or improve. Methods like chewing, yawning, swallowing, over-the-counter ear and nasal drops, hydrogen peroxide plus warm water solution rinse, shaking the head tilted towards the side of the blocked ear, etc., can be of use. Seek a specialist’s help.


How to Sleep With a Clogged Ear?

Posture can affect a blocked and painful ear. Therefore, it is advised to sleep on the opposite side of the ear blockage. For example, if the right ear is blocked, it is better to sleep on the left side to lessen the pressure build-up in the affected ear. Also, sleeping with the head positioned above the level of the body by stacking up two or more pillows is found to be of use.


How to Drain a Blocked Ear Due to Water?

Shaking the head tilted towards the side of ear blockage, dring the outer ear with a soft cloth, drying drops, and blowing an air dryer with minimal speed from a distance can help drain the water out.


What Are the Ways to Open a Blocked Ear Due to Cold?

Allergies and flu cause ear block due to infection. Anti-allergic medication, nasal decongestants, and a warm compress can help relieve fullness in the ears. In addition, the physician might prescribe some antibiotics to get rid of any infection.


Will My Blocked Ear Open Soon?

A blocked ear may open soon or get prolonged based on the underlying cause. For example, a clogged ear due to water and pressure imbalance may resolve within one or two days. Ear waxes can take a week to dissolve on their own and unblock. On the other hand, ear block due to sinus infection or other infections like flu can take more than a week to cure. Meanwhile, a home remedy or a specialist’s consultation would hasten the recovery.


Should I Be Concerned About a Clogged Ear?

When the ear block does not resolve for a prolonged period, ear pain becomes severe, associated with fever and pus discharge; it is of concern and should be treated immediately by an ENT specialist.


Should I Seek a Doctor's Help for My Ear Block?

Suppose the ear block does not resolve on its own or is prolonged for a more extended period and is associated with fever, pain, discharge, hearing loss, and dizziness, it is advisable to seek immediate medical help.

Last reviewed at:
13 Jun 2022  -  1 min read




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