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Ear Congestion

Ear Congestion

Ear congestion can cause aches and pressure build-ups in your middle ear. This can be extremely uncomfortable and painful depending on the severity.

What is Ear Congestion?

Ear congestion is when the tube that connects your nose to your middle ear gets clogged. This tube is known as the Eustachian Tube and its job is to equalize pressure in your ears. However, it cannot do this when it becomes congested, resulting in uncomfortable pressure in one or both ears.

What Causes Ear Congestion?

There are many reasons why the Eustachian Tube may become blocked.

  • Sinus Problems — If you have congestion in your sinuses, it is likely to also affect your ears. Issues in the sinuses linked to ear congestion are:

  • Fluid Blockage — Water can become stuck in the ear canal making it difficult for your ear pressure to stabilize. This doesn’t just happen to swimmers. It can happen while you shower and bathe. So be sure to remove the water from inside your ear.

  • Excess Wax — Earwax is important for good ear health. Typically it should not be removed as it helps to lubricate, moisturize and protect the middle and inner ears. However, it is possible to have an excess of earwax.

Too much build up can cause the ear to get clogged. These clogs can make it hard for the ear to pressurize and result in discomfort. Some safe ways to remove a build up of earwax are:

* Softening the wax by putting a drop or two of olive oil or a mineral oil in the ear
* Use over the counter eardrops
* Use an over the counter ear wax removal kit
* Rinse the ear with warm water using a syringe 

What to Avoid While Suffering From Ear Congestion

In addition to knowing what may be causing your ear congestion, it is also important to be aware of activities that can be uncomfortable or even painful while suffering from ear congestion, and can actually make it worse.

  • Air Travel — traveling by plane requires extreme and rapid pressure changes during take off and landing. Ascending and descending in a matter of minutes to and from thousands of feet can understandably be hard on our pressure systems, which were not designed for extreme altitudes or quick pressure changes.

Unfortunately this means you may experience discomfort during flights. The intensity can be exacerbated if you are experiencing a cold or sinus infection as your Eustachian Tube is already compromised.

  • Swimming and Scuba Diving — Diving underwater also causes pressure changes and if you have ear congestion these changes will be more intense and painful.

If you have ever swum to the bottom of a deep pool you’ve probably felt the pressure in your ears. Water is extremely heavy, and it doesn’t take much for our ears to feel it. We start to feel the pressure changes around 4 or 5 feet, which isn’t that deep. Ear congestion only makes this pressure more intense and it is important to be carful when diving with a cold.

Ear congestion can be caused and exacerbated by many things; book an appointment with a PlushCare physician and learn the best treatment for your condition as well as what activities to avoid while you recover.

Read more about ear congestion and infections

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Leah McCabe

Leah McCabe

Leah likes writing about health and science subjects. Through her writing she hopes to help people of all backgrounds have equal access to information and quality healthcare.

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