Clogged Ears
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Reviewed By:

Eric A. Gantwerker, MD, MMSC

Eric A. Gantwerker, MD, MMSC (Otolaryngology (ENT))

Pediatric Otolaryngologist at Northwell Health and Associate Professor of Otolaryngology at Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. He holds a Master of Medical Science (MMSc) in Medical Education with a special focus on educational technology, educational research, and game-based learning from Harvard Medical School and a Master of Science in Physiology and Biophysics from Georgetown University. He has a special interest in faculty development and has been a speaker or faculty at hundreds of local, national, and international courses and conferences. He is also an active blogger and podcaster for several organizations, including the Harvard Macy Institute (HMI), Harvard Medical School CME Online, and BackTable Innovations. He has been featured in the news and print for media outlets such as USA Today, Businesswire, The Washington Post, Nature Medicine, Fox News, and KevinMD. He was also the Vice President, Medical Director of a medical video game company, Level Ex from 2018 to 2023 that utilized game technology and psychology to create interactive experiences for healthcare professionals. | He is recognized as an expert on the implementation of educational technologies and gaming with a foundation in educational theory for health professions education. He was honored to be inducted as an Associate Member of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Academy of Master Surgeon Educators and as an Associate Fellow of the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE).

Rohini R, MD

Rohini R, MD (Otolaryngology (ENT))

Dr. Rohini R is an ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon, with a Fellowship in Advanced Endoscopic Sinus and Skull Base Surgery and a Fellowship in Aesthetic Medicine and Lasers. Besides clinical practice and working with Ubie, she is actively training and mentoring medical students and residents. She has functioned in various work settings - teaching hospitals, private and free health centers, and worked with patients from all socioeconomic backgrounds due to her experience in free hospitals and volunteering in India and Singapore.

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Content updated on Apr 4, 2024

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  • Feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears

  • Feeling of pressure in the ears

  • Feeling of blocked ears

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About the Symptom

There are many reasons ears can feel blocked including wax or fluid building up in the outer or middle ear. When fluid builds up in the middle ear it is often due to a temporary blockage of the eustachian tubes — which runs between the middle ear and the back of the nose (common during viral illnesses). It might cause a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears, and can even be painful. Outer ear infections (swimmer's ear) can also cause a clogged feeling. If pain, swelling, or redness are present, consider seeking advice from a medical professional to determine if treatment is needed.

Possible Causes

Generally, Clogged ears can be related to:

  • Ear Infection

    Infection of the middle ear (area just behind the eardrum) by bacteria or viruses. Contributing factors include nasal obstruction by adenoids and allergic rhinitis. The symptoms can include ear pain or fullness, fevers, and muffled hearing. This is more common in children but can also present in adults. In severe cases, the eardrum may rupture leading to drainage coming out the ear canal.

  • Migraine

    A type of headache that typically presents as throbbing, pulsating pain on one side of the head, sometimes with associated nausea or sensitivity to light and sound. Sometimes, sensory disturbances, such as vision changes (seeing flashing lights or zigzag lines), can occur before the headache. The pain may worsen on exposure to bright lights or loud noise. Triggers for migraine include stress, poor sleep, caffeine, and hormonal changes in women.

  • Sinusitis

    Infection of the sinuses, which are cavities around the nose and face. The infection can be acute (lasting about a week) or chronic (lasting more than three months). Most often infections start as a viral upper respiratory infection (URI) and then bacterial infection sets in. The symptoms include fever, facial pain or pressure, and nasal obstruction or drainage. Imaging including CT scans may be necessary.

Related serious diseases

Sometimes, Clogged ears may be related to these serious diseases:

  • Perforated Tympanic Membrane

    A hole in the eardrum. It is typically caused by direct injury, but can also be caused by severe infections in the middle ear (otitis media).

Doctor's Diagnostic Questions

Your doctor may ask these questions to check for this symptom:

  • Are your ears blocked?

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References

  • Acute otitis media in adults - UpToDate

    https://www.uptodate.com/contents/acute-otitis-media-in-adults?search=otorrhoea

  • Plugged ears: What is the remedy? - Mayo Clinic

    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/expert-answers/plugged-ears/faq-20058092

  • Schwartz SR, Magit AE, Rosenfeld RM, Ballachanda BB, Hackell JM, Krouse HJ, Lawlor CM, Lin K, Parham K, Stutz DR, Walsh S, Woodson EA, Yanagisawa K, Cunningham ER Jr. Clinical Practice Guideline (Update): Earwax (Cerumen Impaction). Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017 Jan;156(1_suppl):S1-S29. doi: 10.1177/0194599816671491. Erratum in: Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017 Sep;157(3):539. PMID: 28045591.

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28045591/

Reviewed By:

Eric A. Gantwerker, MD, MMSC

Eric A. Gantwerker, MD, MMSC (Otolaryngology (ENT))

Pediatric Otolaryngologist at Northwell Health and Associate Professor of Otolaryngology at Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. He holds a Master of Medical Science (MMSc) in Medical Education with a special focus on educational technology, educational research, and game-based learning from Harvard Medical School and a Master of Science in Physiology and Biophysics from Georgetown University. He has a special interest in faculty development and has been a speaker or faculty at hundreds of local, national, and international courses and conferences. He is also an active blogger and podcaster for several organizations, including the Harvard Macy Institute (HMI), Harvard Medical School CME Online, and BackTable Innovations. He has been featured in the news and print for media outlets such as USA Today, Businesswire, The Washington Post, Nature Medicine, Fox News, and KevinMD. He was also the Vice President, Medical Director of a medical video game company, Level Ex from 2018 to 2023 that utilized game technology and psychology to create interactive experiences for healthcare professionals. | He is recognized as an expert on the implementation of educational technologies and gaming with a foundation in educational theory for health professions education. He was honored to be inducted as an Associate Member of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Academy of Master Surgeon Educators and as an Associate Fellow of the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE).

Rohini R, MD

Rohini R, MD (Otolaryngology (ENT))

Dr. Rohini R is an ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon, with a Fellowship in Advanced Endoscopic Sinus and Skull Base Surgery and a Fellowship in Aesthetic Medicine and Lasers. Besides clinical practice and working with Ubie, she is actively training and mentoring medical students and residents. She has functioned in various work settings - teaching hospitals, private and free health centers, and worked with patients from all socioeconomic backgrounds due to her experience in free hospitals and volunteering in India and Singapore.

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