Clogged or ringing ears can be caused by several factors, such as a buildup of earwax or an ear infection. Sometimes clogged or ringing ears can be temporary, but certain conditions can lead to permanent ringing in the ears, as well as hearing loss.
One of the most common causes of a clogged ear is impacted cerumen, or a buildup of earwax in the ear canal. Earwax may be a sticky and unpleasant substance, but it has an important job to do. Earwax catches dirt, dust, moisture, and other particles that enter the ear, and stops them from reaching the inner ear or causing damage. As the earwax gets dirty, it dries out, and it naturally works its way out of the ear or is washed away in the shower.
Sometimes, earwax can get pushed back into the ear canal, and buildup in front of the eardrum. This could be due to an overproduction of earwax, or aggressively cleaning the ear with a Q-tip and pushing the earwax back down the ear canal. A buildup of earwax can cause:
- A clogged feeling in the ear
- Feeling of fullness in the ear
- Ringing in the ear
- Hearing loss
- Earache or pain in the ear
The best way to remove earwax is by visiting your physician to have your ear flushed with warm water in a process called irrigation. Removing the earwax by yourself can lead to further impaction, or damage to the ear. It’s also important that all the earwax isn’t removed, since the earwax is a natural barrier protecting the ear.
Another common cause of clogged or ringing ears is ear infections. These can be in the ear canal, commonly known as swimmer’s ear, or in the middle ear, known as otitis media. Ear infections are caused by viral or bacterial infections, as well as by allergens in the environment. Ear infections are most common in children, as well as those with some genetic characteristics or anatomical abnormalities.
Symptoms of an ear infection include:
- Pain in the ear
- Moodiness and irritability
- Headaches or pressure in the ear
- Difficulty sleeping
Treating ear infections with antibiotics that attack the viral or bacterial infection will lift the clogged feeling or ringing in the ears, and a few days of treatment will return hearing to normal.
Another cause of clogged or ringing ears is sinus pressure. A congested nose and nasal passage leased to increased pressure in the nose, back of the throat, and eustachian tubes. Sinus pressure can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, diabetes, smoking, swimming, or allergies. Sinus pressure can lead to:
- Pressure in the nose and ears, or other parts of the face
- A runny nose
- A reduced sense of smell
- A toothache
- Clogged or ringing ears
Sinus pressure will often go away on its own after a few days, but severe cases will need to be treated with antibiotics to relieve the symptoms, and fight the infection.
Eustachian Tube Problems
Eustachian tube problems can lead to clogged or ringing ears. The eustachian tubes connect the middle ear to the back of the throat, and drain fluid from the middle ear as well as regulate air pressure in the ear. When the eustachian tube isn’t functioning properly, you may notice:
- Muffled hearing
- Clogged feeling in the ears
- Uncomfortable ringing in the ears
- A pain or pressure in the ear
- Difficulty with balance
Normally, problems with the eustachian tubes will clear within a few days, equalizing the pressure in the ear and relieving the clogged hearing. You can yawn, swallow, or chew to help relieve the pressure in the middle ear. Severe symptoms may require surgery to correct the problem.
Clogged or ringing ears can also be caused by hearing loss. When the middle ear is affected, and sounds can’t travel normally to the inner ear, you’ll experience conductive hearing loss. Symptoms of conductive hearing loss include ringing in the ears, as well as a clogged or full feeling in the ear. To treat hearing loss, start by visiting a hearing health specialist to determine the cause of the hearing loss. Remove a buildup of earwax, take antibiotics, or learn about the hearing aids that can help you hear clearly.