What is the ear made up of?
The outer ear consists of the pinna or auricle - a cartilage covered by skin placed on opposite side of the head - the earlobes and the ear canal - also called the auditory canal or external acoustic meatus - as well as the eardrum (tympanic membrane) outer layer. The middle ear (tympanic cavity) is the part of the ear between the eardrum inner layer and the oval window.
The middle ear transmits sound from the outer ear to the inner ear. The auditory (Eustachian) tube and stabilizing ligaments can be found in the middle ear. While the inner (or internal) ear includes the semicircular canals (or ducts) forming part of our balance system - anterior, lateral and posterior. It also contains the cochlea, a bony structure shaped like a snail and filled with two fluids (endolymph and perilymph). The organ of Corti is the sensory receptor inside the cochlea which holds the hair cells, the nerve receptors for hearing. The internal ear is the most complicated part of our hearing mechanism.
What are the common causes of plugged ears?
The first reason is due to an excessive presence of earwax - a yellowish waxy substance - a secretion in the ear canal of humans. The earwax serves a purpose, however. For starters, it protects the skin within the ear canal, it assists with hydration and lubrication and cleaning. It also provides some protection against bacteria and fungi/spores. It also protects against insects, water and other foreign bodies that may enter the ear canal. Other common causes of blocked ears include:
1. A blocked nose
2. Blockage in the Eustachian tubes
4. Sinus infections
5. An allergic reaction affecting the nasal passages, throat, and ears
7. Accumulation of water in the ears
8. Changes in atmospheric pressure, such as when taking an airplane journey.
9. Using certain hearing aids, or earplugs as a protective measure may also be more prone to blocked ears.
10. Children produce more wax than adults.
What are the typical symptoms of plugged ears?
Symptoms of blocked ears may vary and can be quite uncomfortable. Here are some signs:
• A reduction in hearing acuity
• A mild to severe earache
• A possible ringing or buzzing in one or both ear
• An occasional itching in one or both ears
• Possible dizziness or loss of balance
• A possible discharge from one or both ears, including blood on some occasions.
Home remedies for clearing plugged ears
1. The Toynbee Maneuver: Keep your mouth closed and pinch your nostrils together, swallowing several times. Swallowing pulls open the Eustachian tubes. The movement of the tongue, with closed nostrils, will compress the air which passes through the tubes to the middle ear, equalizing the pressure.
2. Chewing gum: The slow mastication of gum appears to do the trick for many in unplugging ears. Try to select a healthy brand that is free of aspartame, soy, gluten and GMO. You can also find chewing gums that are vegan and diabetic friendly.
3. Yawning: A good yawn tends to do the trick for some. It helps open up the Eustachian tubes. Swallowing is another trick you can try.
4. Olive oil: This will help soften and dislodge the natural earwax that has built up and become more compressed. Or for clearing out a foreign body like dust or an insect in the ear. Warm the olive oil until it is lukewarm and transfer to an ear dropper. Pull on your earlobe to open up the entrance to the ear canal a little more when inserting the oil. Insert three to five drops of oil. Once administered leave the oil in place for a good five minutes. When ready, tilt your head in the opposite direction and allow the olive oil and loosened ear wax, as well as any foreign body to trickle out. Use a cotton wool ball or soft tissue to soak up and clean the entrance to the ear canal.
5. Water flush: Similar to the olive oil technique, only using lukewarm water instead. The preparation and application process are the same as above whereby you would allow the warm water to stay in place for 5 to 10 minutes before draining. Just be sure to gently squeeze the ear dropper bulb. Water will enter with greater ease and force than oil, placing the eardrum at higher risk of damage. Mixing one teaspoon of salt into half a cup of the lukewarm water will create a saline solution that may bring improved results. Some commercial ear drops contain sodium bicarbonate.
6. Nasal sprays: There are times when plugged ears may be the result of a blockage in your sinuses. You may also be suffering from hay fever, allergic rhinitis or non-allergic rhinitis. You may opt for an over the counter decongestant nasal spray. Once sprayed into the nose, small arterial blood vessels in the lining of the nose constrict decreasing the nasal congestion. This should, in turn, relieve your plugged ears.
7. Warm cloth/compress: All you need is a suitable cloth, like a flannel and warm water. Simply wet the cloth and wring it out and apply the cloth to the affected ear (both on and under the ear) for about five minutes, ensuring the water does not enter the ear canal. Remove the cloth then rub the affected ear with the palm of your hand for several seconds. Then place the palm of your hand over your entire ear to seal it. Push your palm in a little, then pull it away, as if it were a suction cup. Tilt your head to the affected side as you do this. Repeat this process about ten times until the wax begins to appear in the palm of your hand and your ear(s) unplug.