How To Unblock Clogged Ears Naturally – 8 Effective Home Remedies

Medically reviewed by Dr. Millie Lytle, ND, MPH
by Pooja Karkala

But there are times when your ears get clogged due to various factors. This can cause pain and discomfort and may affect your hearing. Read on to know more about the common triggers of clogged ears and their natural treatment options.

What Causes A Clogged Ear?

Clogged ears can disrupt the balance, affect hearing, and also cause pain and discomfort. Both internal and external factors can trigger the condition. They include:

  • Barotrauma – It occurs when your ears can’t adapt to the changing pressure on an airplane (1).
  • Ear Infection (Otitis Media) – It is a result of fluid build-up in the ears that may cause virus or bacteria to multiply (2). A cold or flu often triggers an ear infection.
  • Earwax Impaction – It occurs due to an excessive production of earwax, which causes a build-up of wax in the ear canal (3).
  • Presence of a foreign object like cotton inside the ear
  • Swimmer’s Ear – This condition results from water being trapped in the ear (4).
  • Smoking

Some of the lesser common causes of ear congestion are migraines and spontaneous cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leakage.

Signs And Symptoms

The common signs and symptoms associated with clogged ears include:

  • A sensation of pressure in the ears
  • Muffled hearing
  • Ear pain
  • Earache
  • A feeling of fullness in the affected ear
  • Ringing in one or both ears
  • Loss of balance or dizziness
  • Decreased hearing
  • Cough

A clogged ear can indicate fluid build-up in the ear, especially if the person already has a cold or flu. This can increase the risk of developing an ear infection.

Clogged ears can be quite discomforting and may affect your day-to-day life. However, there are several home remedies that may help in unclogging blocked ears. Let’s take a look at them.

8 Home Remedies To Clean Clogged Ears

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which can heal chronic suppurative otitis media (5).

It also possesses antimicrobial properties (6). These properties can help with a cold or flu that may have contributed to your clogged ears.

You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of distilled water
  • A dropper
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix one tablespoon each of apple cider vinegar and distilled water.
  2. Using a dropper, pour three to four drops of the solution in the affected ear.
  3. Cover the ear using a cotton ball and tilt your head to the opposite side.
  4. Stay in the position for about 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the cotton.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 1-2 times daily.

2. Tea Tree Essential Oil

Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties (7). These activities of tea tree oil can help reduce inflammation inside the ear and fight the infectious microbes that could be clogging your ear.

You Will Need
  • 4-5 drops of tea tree oil
  • Hot water
  • A large bowl
What You Have To Do
  1. Add four to five drops of tea tree oil to a bowl of hot water.
  2. Lean towards the bowl, with the affected ear facing the steam from the water.
  3. Cover your head with a large towel or blanket to prevent the steam from escaping.
  4. Do this for 10 minutes.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 1-2 times daily.

3. Vicks VapoRub

Vicks VapoRub contains eucalyptus oil and menthol that possess both anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties (8), (9). This may help clear clogged ears caused due to inflammation or infection.

You Will Need

Vicks VapoRub (as required)

What You Have To Do
  1. Take a little Vicks on your fingertip.
  2. Apply it behind the affected ear.
  3. Leave it on overnight.
  4. Alternatively, you can also put some Vicks in a bowl of hot water and allow its steam to enter your ears.
How Often You Should Do This

You may do this once daily.

4. Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is cerumenolytic and can help in softening the earwax, making it easy to remove. Hydrogen peroxide may be as effective as any other ear drops for clearing ears clogged due to earwax build-up (10).

You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 tablespoon of distilled water
  • A dropper
  • Tissues
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix a tablespoon each of 3% hydrogen peroxide and distilled water.
  2. Using a dropper, put two to three drops of the solution in the affected ear.
  3. Let the solution sit inside your ear for about 5 minutes.
  4. Blot your ear with a tissue.
How Often You Should Do This

You may do this once daily for 4-5 days to clear the earwax build-up.

Caution: Consult a doctor before carrying out this procedure. Avoid it if you have an ear infection.

5. Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is an excellent option if you are trying to unclog ears that are clogged due to earwax build-up. It is as effective as water-based ear drops in helping to get rid of earwax build-up (11).

You Will Need
  • Mineral oil (as required)
  • A dropper
  • Tissues
What You Have To Do
  1. Using a dropper, put two to three drops of mineral oil in the affected ear.
  2. Tilt your head and allow the oil to work on your clogged ear for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Blot your ear with a tissue.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this once daily for 2-3 days.

6. Warm Compress

A warm compress can help reduce the pain caused due to clogged ears. The steam from the compress can enter the ear canal and loosen the earwax build-up, making it easier to remove.

You Will Need

A warm compress

What You Have To Do
  1. Apply a warm compress below the affected ear for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Alternatively, you can also use the steam from hot water on the affected ear.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 2-3 times daily.

7. Gargle Salt Water

Gargling with water (with/without salt) may help prevent upper respiratory infections (12). It can also help ease symptoms of nasal congestion and clogged ears associated with a cold or flu.

You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of table salt
  • 1 glass of warm water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a teaspoon of table salt to a glass of warm water.
  2. Mix well and gargle with the solution.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this multiple times daily.

8. Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol can help prevent cerumen impaction (13). This, in turn, can prevent clogging of ears.

You Will Need

3-4 drops of rubbing alcohol

What You Have To Do
  1. Put two to three drops of rubbing alcohol with a dropper in the affected ear.
  2. Tilt your head and blot your ear with a tissue
How Often You Should Do This

You may do this once a day

9. Passive Techniques

If you are in an airplane or traveling to a hill station and your ears are blocked, some passive techniques may help:

  • Yawning – Let out a yawn until you hear a pop in your ears. It will clear the pressure built up inside your ears.
  • Swallowing – Swallowing can also help clear blocked ears in an elevated area.
  • Chewing – Chewing gum can also help.
  • Valsalva maneuver – Take a deep breath and pinch your nose soon after. Exhale from your nose with your mouth closed. This is the Valsalva maneuver that can help in popping blocked ears (14).

All the above remedies are quite effective in treating clogged ears. However, there are also some precautions that you may have to follow to prevent your ears from clogging.

How To Prevent Clogged Ears

  • Avoid cotton swabs or tools to clean your inner ear as it can push the earwax deeper in.
  • Avoid candling. It is a procedure that uses a cone-shaped candle to pull out excess earwax. However, it doesn’t work, and people are quite likely to burn their hands or ears while doing so.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Keep your nasal passage moist.
  • Remove any water or foreign object that may have entered your ears.
  • Remove any excess wax every now and then to avoid excess wax buildup.
  • Blow your nose to get rid of trapped mucus in the ears as well as chest.
  • Wear earplugs while swimming or bathing. This can help reduce the risk of water entering deep into the ear canal.

When To See A Doctor For Clogged Ears

If the above remedies and tips fail to unblock your ears, consult your doctor immediately. Check if your condition is accompanied by the below symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Pain in the ear, head, or face
  • Swelling in the ear, head, or face
  • Symptoms that last for a week or keep recurring

These tips can help prevent clogged ears to a great extent. But if you are at a higher altitude or running a cold/fever, your ears tend to get blocked. Excess wax build-up in the ears is also a common occurrence. Give the remedies discussed here a shot during such instances and see what works best for you. In case the problem persists, consult a doctor immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

What medicines will treat clogged ears?

Over-the-counter painkillers and decongestants like nasal sprays or tablets are often prescribed to help with clogged ears and their symptoms.

Why is my ear clogged after swimming?

If your ears are clogged and infected after swimming, the condition is known as swimmer’s ears. It is caused when water gets trapped in the ears.

What to do when your ear is clogged?

Try out any of the above tips and remedies to get rid of clogged ears. If nothing seems to help, see a doctor immediately to rule out the possibility of any serious underlying medical condition.

14 sources

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Pooja Karkala

Pooja is a Mass Communications and Psychology graduate. Her education has helped her develop the perfect balance between what the reader wants to know and what the reader has to know. As a classical dancer, she has long, black hair, and she knows the struggle that goes into maintaining it. She believes in home remedies and grandma’s secrets for achieving beautiful, luscious hair. When she is not writing, she learns Kuchipudi, practices yoga, and creates doodles.
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