I'm just getting over a bad cold, and my ears have been plugged for more than a week. What causes this? Is there any remedy for plugged ears?

Answers from Laura J. Orvidas, M.D.

With plugged ears, your eustachian tubes — which run between your middle ear and the back of your nose — become obstructed. You may also have ear pain. You can try to forcibly open your eustachian tubes by taking a deep breath and trying to blow out while pinching your nostrils closed and closing your mouth. If you feel a popping noise, you know you have succeeded.

When treatment is needed, doctors focus on getting air to flow into the eustachian tubes. Options for clearing plugged ears include:

  • Oral decongestants
  • Nasal spray antihistamines
  • Topical nasal steroids
  • Ventilation tubes, in severe cases, to drain fluid and relieve pressure

If your symptoms are severe and last longer than a few weeks, consider seeking care from an ear, nose and throat specialist.


Laura J. Orvidas, M.D.

Jan. 19, 2012 See more Expert Answers