It can be a truly annoying feeling. You wake up in the morning and feel off-balance somehow and cannot hear as well anymore. It takes a little while to figure out that one, or even both ears suddenly feel blocked. There are four main reasons why this can be the case. Some of which are rather minor reasons and others may be more serious. The issue is – at first all of them feel exactly the same. So, it could be any of those reasons. It’s good to find out why this is the case and what to do about it.
Reason 1: Ear Wax
The most common reason for blocked ears is that they are actually blocked with ear wax. It is absolutely normal that the ear produces wax – however – normally it should come out by itself in tiny bits under the shower and you won’t even notice it. Sometimes there is a larger piece falling out but, in some cases, the natural ear cleaning system does not work. The result is that ear wax builds up in the ear. Up to a certain point, you don’t feel that the wax is building up. But once the wax comes in contact with water after having a swim, surf, bath or shower the ear can clog up very quickly. If only one ear blocks up it can upset your balance and awareness of directions. In most cases a blockage of ear wax can be easily removed – but please do not attempt to do it yourself. Remember: don’t stick anything in your ear which is smaller than your elbow.
Reason 2: Middle Ear Issues
It can feel exactly like a wax blockage and we often see clients who complain about a wax blockage. But after looking into the ear the canal appears completely clear and the eardrum is fully visible at the end. But the ear may still be blocked. Not by wax in the external ear but maybe by a fluid build-up behind the eardrum in the middle ear or because the middle ear is not ventilated the way it should. This may happen when you’ve got a cold, flu, allergies or post-nasal drip. If the ear canal is clear, we can measure the pressure in the middle ear and assess what is going on. Dependent on the test results, we can write a report for you GP or ENT who may treat this medically.
Reason 3: Sudden Loss of Hearing
This is a more serious issue as we often don’t know why it occurs. A sudden loss of hearing may be the cause of the sensation of a blocked ear. In most cases, a sudden hearing loss is only a partial loss of hearing capacity – sometimes accompanied by a slight ringing noise. This can feel exactly like a blocked ear due to ear wax or fluid build-up, but the cause is entirely different and may require urgent treatment by a medical professional.
Reason 4: Foreign Objects
It may sound funny, but we see it often. Something that shouldn’t be in the ear gets stuck there. This can be part of a cotton-bud, ear-tips of earphones, ointments, creams or even jewellery. If you ever stick something in your ear and it doesn’t come out in its entirety it’s a good idea to visit us.
Whatever the reason is – a blocked ear can be really annoying. The balance is upset, you can’t localise sounds anymore and things just don’t feel right.
Unfortunately, many people have a tendency to “wait and see” if the ear unblocks itself. Or even worse, they try to use cotton buds and other ‘tools’ to try to get it out. Both approaches have their risks. In case of a sudden loss of hearing, we lose valuable time as there may only be a short window in which treatment may be effective.
Trying to get clear the suspected blockage yourself without being able to see inside the ear may make things worse than they were or even cause permanent damage.
But help is near – next time you feel the ear is blocked just give us a call or just pop into the clinic.
We can assess all those aspects of your ears and find out the reason for the blockage. If it is ear wax, we mostly remove it on the spot. If there are other reasons, we will write a report and send it to your GP right away so everything can be dealt with quickly and professionally.
So please do not take blocked ears lightly. Get it checked as soon as you notice that something may not be right.