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
- Seibert JW, et al. Eustachian tube function and the middle ear. Otolaryngologic Clinics of North America. 2006;39:1221.
- Poe D, et al. Eustachian tube dysfunction. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Dec. 8, 2011.