I'm just getting over a cold, and my ears feel plugged. What causes this? Is there any remedy for plugged ears?
Answer 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 blocked. You may experience a feeling of fullness or pressure in your ears. You may also have ear pain, dizziness and muffled hearing. As swelling from the cold subsides, the blockage usually resolves.
If your ears are plugged, try swallowing, yawning or chewing sugar-free gum to open your eustachian tubes. If this doesn't work, take a deep breath and try to blow out of your nose gently while pinching your nostrils closed and keeping your mouth shut. If you hear a popping noise, you know you have succeeded.
Other options for clearing plugged ears include:
- Nasal decongestants, but for no more than a few days
- Topical nasal steroids, especially in people with allergies
- Ventilation tubes, in severe cases, to drain fluid and relieve pressure
Call your health care provider if your symptoms are severe or last more than two weeks.
Laura J. Orvidas, M.D.
Jan. 26, 2022
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See more Expert Answers
- Poe D, et al. Eustachian tube dysfunction. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Sept. 15, 2021.
- Ears and altitude (barotrauma). American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/ears-and-altitude-barotrauma/. Accessed Sept. 15, 2021.
- South-Paul JE, et al., eds. Respiratory problems. In: Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Family Medicine. 5th ed. McGraw Hill; 2020. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Sept. 15, 2021.