Blocked ears can be painful and can temporarily impair hearing. The most common causes include colds, air travel, sinus infections and impacted earwax. There are exercises you can try to unblock your ears. If your ears remain blocked for more than 24 hours, you should seek medical advice.
Anatomy of the Ear
The ear comprises three main structures: the inner ear, the outer ear and the middle ear. The middle ear contains three tiny bones, known as the stirrup, the anvil and the hammer. These conduct sound from inside the eardrum to the cochlea – a fluid-filled cavity within the inner ear. There is also a small tube connecting the middle ear to the back of the throat. This is the Eustachian tube, which is normally closed but opens briefly when you yawn or swallow.
A blocked ear usually occurs when the air pressure in the middle ear becomes negative due to a malfunctioning Eustachian tube. Negative pressure within the middle ear causes the ear to feel blocked and may make sounds seem muffled. This problem is most commonly caused by allergies, a head cold, sinus problems or injuries due to atmospheric pressure. If you have suffered the latter you should seek medical advice immediately.
The Ear Press
Several yoga postures are good for the ears and may help to rebalance air pressure and restore hearing. One specific yoga asana is Karnapidasana, or the ear press. Lie flat on your back with your legs stretched out. Bend your knees and raise your legs so that your thighs are pressing against your ears and your toes are touching the ground behind your head. Continue normal breathing and hold the pose for three to six seconds.
Water therapy with a neti pot can help clear the sinuses and unblock the ears. A neti pot is filled with a prepared solution of saline and inserted into one nostril while the head is gently tilted to the side. Gravity draws the water into the nostril and out of the other one, cleaning the sinuses on the way.
Other simple exercises to open the Eustachian tube and restore normal ear pressure include forcing yourself to yawn, holding your nose while swallowing, gently blowing your nose into a tissue or sucking on a sweet. If these exercises still don't work, exercises to unblock the sinuses may do the trick.