A clogged or blocked feeling in the ears is generally caused by a blockage of the eustachian tubes. The eustachian tubes connect the upper throat and back of the nose with the middle ear. They function to equalize the pressure in the middle ear with the air pressure outside of the ear. When these tubes do not open and close properly to maintain even pressure, discomfort, ear popping, hearing impairment, or a feeling of clogged ears can occur. The Mayo Clinic states that most cases of blocked eustachian tubes are caused by an ear infection, nasal congestion, earwax accumulation, eustachian tube inflammation or allergies. Treatment to unclog the ears depends on the underlying cause of the problem.
Try yawning, swallowing or chewing gum to open up your eustachian tubes and relieve the pressure inside your ears. Pinching your nose closed while gently exhaling may also work to unclog your ears.
Take an over-the-counter decongestant or antihistamine to reduce nasal congestion caused by upper respiratory infections or allergies.
Visit your doctor for prescription nasal steroids. Nasal steroids can help reduce inflammation and relieve nasal congestion, enabling the eustachian tubes to resume normal functioning.
Use a humidifier to help break up congestion in your nasal passages and sinuses caused by infections or allergies. Taking a hot shower may also help loosen congestion and relieve clogged ears.
Relieve clogged ears caused by eustachian tube swelling and inflammation by cleaning your nose twice each day with a saline rinse. Breathing in pollen, pollution, fumes, dirt, or dust can irritate your tubes and cause them to swell. This swelling interferes with pressure regulation inside the inner ear. Larry Lundy, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic recommends purchasing a saline nasal spray and flushing your nose with it to wash out any foreign substances. Saline nasal sprays are available at most pharmacies and retail stores.
Remove excess ear wax by softening it with a few drops of peroxide, glycerin, or mineral oil, and then flushing it out of your ear with lukewarm water and a bulb syringe. The American Academy of Otolaryngology recommends visiting an otolaryngolist for manual removal of your earwax if you fail to respond to home treatments.
Treat ear infections promptly by visiting your doctor for antibiotics. When an infection develops inside the ear, the ear canal swells and traps fluid. This leads to an increase in pressure inside the ear. After a few days on antibiotics, the pain and pressure associated with an ear infection should resolve.
Undergo an outpatient procedure to place tubes in your ears. This procedure, called a myringotomy, involves the insertion of a ventilation tube into the ear to allow fluid to drain from the ears so that pressure is reduced. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, fluid may be suctioned from behind the ear drum during a myringotomy. This sometimes requires the use of general anesthesia.