Have you noticed a ringing or buzzing sensation in your ears, or feel as if one or both of your ears are plugged? Clogged or ringing ears can be caused by a number of conditions, and lead to discomfort and pain in the ears, as well as tinnitus and hearing loss. These symptoms may be temporary, but depending on the cause of the clogged or ringing in ears, hearing loss may be permanent.

Ear Infections

One of the most common causes of clogged or ringing ears is an ear infection. Outer ear infections, commonly called swimmer’s ear, are caused by a bacterial or viral infection in the ear canal that leads to a buildup of fluid and pressure in the ear.

Middle ear infections, known as otitis media, are an infection in the middle ear that affects the ear drum, and fills the middle ear with fluid. Ear infections are most common in children and babies, but can occur at any age. Symptoms include ear pain, irritability, nausea, insomnia, or even a fever.

Treatments for ear infections are effective, and will usually clear the infection in just a few days. Antibiotics that attack the bacterial or viral infection can be taken orally or as drops in the ear, relieving the clogged or ringing in the ear.

Cerumen Impaction

Cerumen, commonly called ear wax, is vital for the health of the ear. While you may think this substance is sticky or even gross, it protects your ear from damage by trapping dirt, dust, and moisture in the ear canal, keeping the eardrum and inner ear safe. Cerumen impaction, or a buildup of hard, dry wax in the ear canal, is quite common.

Earwax normally dries out when it traps dirt and dust, and slowly works its way out of the ear canal, to fall out of the ear, or be flushed away during a shower. However, due to improper ear cleaning or even the shape of the ear canal, earwax can buildup in the ear canal, leading to a clogged feeling, ringing in the ears, and the feeling that all the sounds around you are muffled.

Don’t try to remove cerumen impaction by yourself, since this can just force the earwax further into the ear. The best treatment option is to visit your doctor or ENT specialist for an irrigation treatment, where the ear is flushed out with warm water, loosening the ear wax and flushing it out of the ear.

Airplane Ear

Airplane ear describes the clogged or ringing in the ears that some people will experience during airplane take-off and landing. This can also occur when diving underwater or even riding up a very fast elevator. Symptoms may affect one or both ears, and you may feel as though sounds are faint or muffled. You’ll also experience a clogged feeling in the ear, or even vertigo.

Airplane ear is caused by abrupt changes in air pressure in the ear. When air pressure changes slowly, the eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the back of the throat, can easily regulate the air pressure in the middle ear. When changes occur very quickly, the added pressure in the ear may cause the ear drum to pull inwards or push outwards, leading to a feeling of pain of discomfort in the middle ear.

If you experience airplane ear, it’s important to regulate the pressure in your ear as soon as possible to prevent a ruptured ear drum. You can:
• Yawn
• Chew gum or swallow
• Avoid flying when you have a cold, allergies, or congested sinuses
• Stay awake during take off and landing to manually regulate your ears

Meniere’s Disease

Meniere’s disease is an illness that affects the inner ear, leading to permanent hearing loss. As the cells in the inner ear are damaged, you’ll experience a clogged or ringing feeling in the ears, and struggle to follow conversations or make sense of the sounds around you.

There is no cure for Meniere’s disease, but treatment options do exist. Surgery can drain fluid from the middle ear, and some medications or changes in diet could slow the progress of the illness. Treating hearing loss will help you hearing the sounds around you, and overcome the clogged or ringing feeling in your ears.

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