How to Unblock Your Ears Now and Hear the World Sing
Has your day been ruined simply because something keeps you from clearly hearing what your friend is trying to tell you? Are you having trouble thinking of anything else because your ears are failing you?
Blocked ears cause discomfort. They can be painful, temporarily impair your hearing, and even effect your balance, generating a dizzy feeling that could easily ruin your day.
Common causes of blockage include colds and sinus issues, impacted earwax, and air travel. Before you turn to medicine, learning a few natural techniques for unblocking your ears might be helpful. Of course, if none of these simple solutions work, it's time to consult your doctor.
Anatomy of the Human Ear
Learning how to unblock your ears starts by understanding how they work. The ear is comprised of three structures: inner, outer, and middle ear. Three tiny bones (stirrup, anvil, and hammer) make up the middle ear and generate sound from the eardrums all the way to the fluid-filled cavity called "cochlea." Another important component is the small Eustachian tube that connects the middle ear and the back of your throat. Normally, the tube is closed, though it opens whenever you swallow or yawn.
Blockages usually happen whenever air pressure within the middle ear becomes negative because the Eustachian tube is not functioning properly. The negative pressure causes the block and muffles the sounds coming through.
The First Things to Do to Unblock Your Ears
- Open your mouth slightly and yawn. Keep your mouth open to form an "O" shape as you would when saying "ahhhh" to yawn. Stop whenever you feel your ears pop. Yawn again if the popping persists. You'll know it's working if the pressure starts to rebalance. Once you feel and hear the pop, your hearing will be greatly improved.
- Rest your head back and push your jaw forward at the same time. Looking upwards puts the Eustachian tubes into a better position. With your jaws thrust forward, yawn, and the tubes will open up to relieve the pressure.
- Extend your jaw all the way downward; the motion has to be wide enough so your throat is fully open.
- Chew gum. Even mimicking how you would chew gum can help. The jaw's movement equalizes the pressure in the inner and outer ear. Just like yawning, the act of chewing may also prevent the blocking of the ears in the first place. During altitude changes (in an airplane, for example,) chew gum to ease the pressure.
- If you have hard candies/lozenges, suck on them. Just like chewing gum, sucking on hard candies, mint, or lozenges for a certain time equalizes the pressure on both parts of the ears as well.
- Drink water—lots of it! A large glass of water should suffice. Pull your head back so the Eustachian tubes are positioned, and take water in large gulps. If done correctly, the blocking should subside.
- If you think you got water inside your ears while bathing or swimming, use your finger to carefully create pressure to pull the water out. If the pain persists even if you are already out of the water, utilize gravity to help you out: Bend to the side at the waist until your blocked ear is parallel with the floor. Push a finger gently into the ear (not too far!) and pull it out, just like you would when using a toilet plunger. This gently eases off the pressure until your ears release the water.
Remember to never stick a finger too deeply into your ear. Doing so may cause damage. You're trying to ease the pressure and move the blockage, not dig it out!
If That Doesn't Work, Try These Solutions for Unblocking Your Ears
- Gargle lukewarm, salted water (the hotter, the better). Mix a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water. Gargle a mouthful, then take a minute break, and gargle again—repeat until you've gargled the whole glass.
- If you think earwax buildup is the cause of the pressure imbalance, unplug your ears with alcohol and vinegar. Mix 70% isopropyl alcohol and white vinegar in a 1:1 ratio. Then tilt your head gently to the side and apply a few drops of the solution using a medicine dropper. Keep your head tilted for a few minutes. The solution should help loosen the wax that had accumulated inside your ears. (A 1:1 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water might also work.)
- Treat yourself to something super spicy. How about a jalapeño pepper? It may not be your first food choice, but the jalapeño surely gets the work done. Your mucus will be up and running right away. Once the mucus has started running and flowing, blow your nose immediately and move the jaw around at the same time.
- Certain yoga postures may help ease the pressure, ultimately restoring your hearing back to normal. Karnapidasana, also known as the ear press, is one such posture. Start by lying flat with your back on the floor and legs outstretched. Raise your legs until your thighs are pressed against your ears. By this time, your toes should touch the floor, just behind your head. While at it (probably for 3 to 6 seconds), breathe normally.
- Use a neti pot to help clear out the sinuses and unblock your ears. Fill the neti pot with prepared saline solution and insert it into your nostril while your head is tilted to one side. Gravity does the rest, drawing water into one nostril and out the other, clearing the sinuses along the way.
- You could also try craniosacral therapy, which works to rebalance the natural cerebrospinal flow inside the body. Although it is used for a broader set of therapies and disorders, craniosacral therapy could aid in correcting and stabilizing the pressure imbalance in your ears, particularly through the Eustachian tubes where ear congestion usually starts.
If you are congested or have a sinus infection, you may need medication or a decongestant to unclog your ears.