Have you ever experienced a sudden change in hearing, a sensation of blockage, or a persistent ringing in your ear(s)? If so, you are all too aware of how uncomfortable and distracting it can be.
Often, physical obstruction isn’t the culprit. Clogged ears can have various causes, from excessive wax buildup to infection. Eustachian tubes in your middle ear can also get blocked, reducing air pressure and resulting in pressure in the ears. Treatment often includes popping your ears by inflating your cheeks, closing your mouth, then exhaling as you plug your nose. (Trust us – it works.) Some people achieve relief through yawning, swallowing, or chewing gum.
And while many individuals attempt DIY methods to achieve relief, including ear flushing or cleaning with a warm, damp cloth, these approaches are not always effective.
Faced with hearing difficulties, persistent and irritating echoes, and/or vertigo, you may be wondering, “Should you go to urgent care for a clogged ear?”
Well, hear ye, hear ye. Here are three big reasons you should consider scheduling an appointment or dropping by.
- Wax In, Wax Out: Earwax buildup is one of the most common reasons for a clogged ear. When too much wax accumulates in your ear canal, it can cause a blockage that impacts your ability to hear. Earwax typically cleans itself out of your ears, but individuals with excessive earwax will want to take measures to prevent it from happening again. You can clean your ear with an OTC earwax removal kit, but if your discomfort is persistent, it may be best to visit urgent care or an audiologist for a professional cleaning.
- Under pressure: Sinus infections regularly result in ear pressure or clogged ears. Additional symptoms may include headache and nasal congestion. If your clogged ear is accompanied by these symptoms, store-bought pain relievers may initially provide some relief, but to rid yourself of the infection entirely you will need to get in touch with a healthcare provider who can offer guidance for effective home treatment – or prescribe an antibiotic in the event of a bacterial infection. Untreated sinus infections can lead to severe complications and should be addressed asap.
- Unusual symptoms: If your clogged ear is accompanied by strange or alarming symptoms like blood or pus draining from the ear canal, severe pain, or an unusually high fever, seek medical attention immediately. An ear infection could be the underlying cause, which requires medical treatment at an urgent care facility to avoid severe complications.
When treating a clogged ear at home, remember to avoid using objects like cotton swabs to clean out your ears, as they can inadvertently cause physical damage. A warm, damp cloth is the best option to gently clean mildly blocked ears, without pushing wax further into the ear canal.
The sensation of a clogged ear can be quite frustrating, but the good news is – it’s not uncommon. By assessing the severity of your discomfort, you can determine whether you need to visit urgent care or if you can take care of it yourself.