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My Ear Gets Plugged When I Exercise

author image Lisa M. Wolfe
A mother of two and passionate fitness presenter, Lisa M. Wolfe had her first fitness article published in 2001. She is the author of six fitness books and holds an Associate of Arts in exercise science from Oakland Community College. When not writing, Wolfe is hula-hooping, kayaking, walking or cycling.
My Ear Gets Plugged When I Exercise
A man is out of breath after exercising with a kettle bell. Photo Credit: lagunaguiance/iStock/Getty Images

The delicate structures of your inner ears are sensitive to changes in air pressure resulting from weather, altitude and breathing difficulties. If your ear becomes stopped up during exercise, you'll probably be able to work through it even though it may be uncomfortable. You may also be able to remedy the problem. however, with a simple change in your breathing pattern.

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Too Much Pressure

Ear plugging occurs mot often during resistance training exercises. Compared with aerobic activities, resistance training requires periods of deep breaths or straining in which you may hold your breath. The breath is the key to understanding why your ears get plugged. The ears are connected to your breath through the eustachian tube behind the nose. If an air bubble sneaks into this tube and creates an imbalance in ear pressure, your ears feel plugged.

Hold Your Breath

During strength training, you may inadvertently hold your breath as you strain to lift the weights. The name for this breathing style is the Valsalva maneuver. Your inhale is typical, but your exhale occurs against closed lips and a closed throat. The air has to go somewhere, and since it cannot escape from your lips it may travel into the ears. The eustachian tube absorbs what it can, but the rest presses on your ear drum and your ears feel plugged, blocked or full.

Take a Drink

The easiest way to release the buildup of ear pressure is to swallow. You can try dry swallowing, but you may have more success if you take a drink of water. If swallowing does not help, try yawning to open up the tubes and release the pressure. A third way to eliminate ear pressure is to gently pinch your nose and force the air through your nostrils as if trying to blow your nose. Repeated attempts may be necessary to release the pressure.

Keep It Clean

The way to avoid ear plugging during exercise is to be aware of your breathing. Even if you do not lift weights but use your body as resistance -- during push-ups, for example -- you must still ensure a proper breathing pattern. Avoid holding your breath throughout the movement. Exhale as you move against gravity, which is the hardest part of the exercise. Inhale as you move with gravity, which is the easier portion of the exercise.

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