Diseases & Conditions
Why do my ears feel clogged?
Ask the doctors
Q. Over the past few days, my hearing seems muffled. What might be triggering this clogged sensation?
A. It can be uncomfortable and a little jarring to feel like our ears are stuffed up, especially when it prevents us from hearing clearly. But it's not always easy to identify why. A common reason is impacted earwax, a sticky buildup of the otherwise normal secretions that keep the ear canal lubricated. While you may be tempted to try removing it with a cotton swab, this tactic can backfire, pushing wax farther in. Instead, try over-the-counter earwax removal drops to soften and loosen waxy buildup.
Clogged ears can also result from swollen or blocked eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the back of the throat. This can happen for brief periods during air travel, but also due to allergies, sinus or ear infections, or other respiratory viruses (including COVID-19). Sudden onset of muffled hearing in one ear may signal an urgent problem requiring prompt treatment to prevent or reduce possible hearing loss. See your doctor if the problem lasts beyond a day or two.
Image: © Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd/Getty Images
About the Authors
Toni Golen, MD, Contributor; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing
Hope Ricciotti, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch
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