Plugged ears may occur as a result of colds, infections or allergies. This symptom is related to fluid buildup in your eustachian tubes -- the tubes that connect your middle ear with the back of your nose and upper throat. This fluid buildup causes feelings of ear pressure, pain and discomfort, and may also lead to ringing in the ear, dizziness and hearing impairment. While there are some temporary fixes to plugged ears, to resolve this symptom, you'll need to manage the underlying cause.
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For immediate relief, try to unplug your ears by yawning, swallowing or chewing gum. Sucking on hard candy or lozenges may also help. This jaw movement may open your eustachian tubes and relieve pressure and discomfort. Other ways mild ear blockage can be improved is by moving the jaw forward, then side to side. If you think your baby has plugged ears, try giving her a pacifier or bottle.
Another strategy to unplug your ears is to pinch your nostrils while breathing out with your mouth closed. If this doesn’t work, try to thrust your jaw upward while tilting your head back. If you hear a popping noise, you know this was at least temporarily successful.
If plugged ears are due to a cold or allergies, this symptom may be alleviated by managing the congestion and mucus buildup. Try using a humidifier in your bedroom at night, or use a saline nasal spray to moisten the nasal passages. Another strategy to unplug your ears is to sleep in a semi-upright position to facilitate draining of your sinuses and nasal passages. Prop your head up with several pillows, or sleep in a chair to keep your ears unplugged.
If you have congestion caused by an upper respiratory infection, an over-the-counter (OTC) decongestant may help. If your plugged ears are due to allergies, an OTC antihistamine may alleviate congestion and improve your symptoms. Prescription-strength medications and nasal steroids may be necessary for severe symptoms.