Plugged Ears

Dealing With Plugged Ears

Plugged ears can result from any number of causes. When the outer ear is plugged, it's almost always a matter of an obstruction, either a foreign object that's entered the ear canal, or more likely, a collection of compacted ear wax. More rare is the situation where swelling, or the formation of a cyst or a tumor can cause the outer ear canal to become blocked.

Plugged ears can also result from the middle ear becoming blocked. This is usually due to illness or disease where something is causing fluid to enter the inner ear, usually fluid from the nasal passages or from an infection in the Eustachian tube.

Plugged ears may simply be annoying and are often temporary. We often have this experience when changing altitude fairly rapidly, and the air pressure in the inner ear becomes greater than the air pressure in the outer ear. The ear isn't actually plugged, but air pressure against the ear drum doesn't allow it to function properly, and gives the sensation that the ear is plugged.

Probably the most common cause of plugged ears is the buildup of fluid in the inner ear, behind the ear drum and normally caused by a sinus irritation. Children seem more susceptible to fluid buildup than adults, except in those cases where adults may have a chronic sinus condition. The fluid usually goes away on its own, though in some cases it needs to be drained, especially when an infection is present.

All About Ear Wax - As far as ear wax is concerned, it is a substance that occurs naturally in the ear, and serves the purpose of collecting dust and dirt and in that way protecting the covering of the ear drum. Ear wax usually hardens and falls out of the ear on its own accord, or is washed out when we shower. Occasionally however it builds up, more so in some people than in others. We then may attempt to remove excess wax with a cotton swab, but if we're not careful we can compact it, pushing pack towards the ear drum. When this occurs, ear wax dissolving drops, purchased over the counter, may be needed to loosen and flush out the wax if water doesn't work. Some of the medications can be rather harsh, even though they are effective. A good home remedy is hydrogen peroxide, which is not harsh, and does a good job of softening and dissolving the wax.

In extreme cases an ear nose and throat specialist may need to remove the wax. Just remember that earwax is a good thing. If it is found in the outer portion of the ear, where it is visible, it's all right to remove it, for the sake of appearance if for no other reason. When the wax is further back towards the ear drum, it is basically doing the function for which it is intended, and should be left alone. If you feel compelled to clean ear wax from your ears, think “outer half”, and just remove the wax from the outer half of the outer ear, being careful not to push any back into the ear in the process.

Summary - Unless disease or infection is involved, plugged ears seldom represent a serious condition, though they naturally can cause discomfort or a temporary reduction in hearing ability. Naturally, if pain or fever accompanies the ear condition, one should see a doctor, not only to relieve the symptoms, but to guard against permanent damage being done to the ear. An infection which spreads to the inner ear can become a very serious issue indeed. If there is no pain or fever, an indication that infection is probably not present, a home remedy, designed to relieve the pressure or cleanse the ear may be all that is needed.