How to Relieve Ear Congestion

Four Parts:General PracticesTreating Airplane Ear or Congestion Caused by PressureTreating Congestion Caused by EarwaxTreating Congestion Caused by Infection

Ear congestion is generally described as a blockage in the ear canal. This congestion can be experienced in many ways, including dizziness, and is sometimes linked to sinus problem, cold, or allergies. You may feel a popping in your ear, a reduction in hearing capacity, a sound that is similar to wind rushing through a tunnel, or an overall feeling that there is mucus or other liquid within your ear. But you also may feel like your ears are congested when the air pressure inside the middle ear changes, such as on an airplane or with another change of altitude. Use these tips to relieve ear congestion.

Part 1
General Practices

  1. Image titled Relieve Ear Congestion Step 1
    Determine the cause of your ear congestion. If you have just been on an airplane, you may feel a blockage in your ear that will clear itself. However, if you have recently had a cold or suffer from allergies, you may be experiencing ear congestion that is similar to nasal congestion. If you are having difficulty hearing, you also may be suffering from excessive wax buildup. Seek the advice of a doctor if your symptoms last longer than 48 hours and are accompanied by pain.
  2. Image titled Relieve Ear Congestion Step 2
    Use gravity to your advantage. Some of the time, ear congestion will be due to fluids caught in the Eustachian tubes, which are a part of the middle ear. If you think you might have fluids caught in your ear, here are some tricks using gravity that you can use to relieve congestion.
    • Stand on one foot, tilt your head to the side (preferably the side that has blockage), and hop slowly and steadily on one foot. Be careful doing this — you don't want to fall down. This can sometimes help dislodge fluid that is caught in the ear canal.
    • Lie down on your side with your head resting on a pillow. Keep the ear that's congested facing downward. Rest like this for an hour. Again, gravity may help pull the fluid out from your ear.
  3. Image titled Relieve Ear Congestion Step 3
    Try irrigating your nasal passage or using a neti pot. Sinus congestion feels a lot like your ears are plugged, and so sinus congestion might really be masquerading as ear congestion. For some, nasal irrigation may bring quick relief of sinus symptoms without the use of medications.[1] The neti pot works by thinning out mucus and flushing it out of the nasal passage.
    • Note that you should not put fluid into your ear if you have a perforated eardrum or suspect an ear infection. See a doctor instead.
    • All neti pots come with their own set of instructions that should be followed. Typically, however, one first prepares an irrigating solution made up of 16 ounces lukewarm (and sterile) water, along with 1 teaspoon of salt. Fill your neti pot with the saline solution.
    • Tilt your head at a 45 degree angle and bring the tip of the neti pot to your top nostril. The saline solution will go into one nostril, travel through your nasal cavity, and come out of the other nostril. If the solution drips into your mouth, just spit it out. Blow your nose and repeat the process on the other side.
    • How often should you irrigate with a neti pot? People suffering from severe sinus problems or allergies found relief irrigating daily.[1] Once symptoms get better, the recommended usage is three times per week.
  4. Image titled Relieve Ear Congestion Step 4
    Use a decongestant. If your ear congestion is a result of seasonal allergies or a cold, take decongestant as directed. This will work to reduce swelling in your ear canal. You also may take an antihistamine and a decongestant together as long as you follow label instructions.
  5. Image titled Relieve Ear Congestion Step 5
    Put your finger in your ear and try to create a vacuum. Try putting your index finger in your ear and moving the index finger gently upwards. Ears are shaped differently, so this may take a bit of finessing. Move your finger around gently until you have created a vacuum. Try to suction the fluid out of your ear.
  6. Image titled Relieve Ear Congestion Step 6
    Try a steam treatment using hot water and a towel. Put hot, slightly steaming water in a large bowl, cover your head with a towel, and rest your covered head over the steam bath. The steam may help thin out and loosen the mucus, which you can then spit out into another bowl.
    • Try putting tea or other herbs into your steam treatment. Some teas like chamomile have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic qualities, making them a nice addition to the steam treatment.
    • Hot showers, trips to the sauna, or humidifiers will also do the trick. Avoid placing any steaming object near your ear, as the steam produced this way can sometimes be too hot.

Part 2
Treating Airplane Ear or Congestion Caused by Pressure

  1. Image titled Relieve Ear Congestion Step 7
    Treat blockage in the inner ear, often called "airplane ear." If you are flying, or driving in high altitudes, you may experience "airplane ear." Fast changes in altitude cause air pressure changes and can trigger airplane ear.
  2. Image titled Relieve Ear Congestion Step 8
    Try to yawn or swallow. This often will clear the air in your inner ear. Chewing gum will create more saliva to aid in swallowing.
    • Practice the Valsalva maneuver. Pinch your nostrils closed with your fingers and gently blow your nose to regulate the air pressure. You should hear a slight popping sound if you did it correctly.
  3. Image titled Relieve Ear Congestion Step 9
    Take antihistamine prior to the flight. Take an antihistamine 30 minutes to an hour before boarding your flight or driving in high altitudes. Antihistamines will decrease irritants within the ear canal that may cause swelling, which will in turn help the air pass more easily through your inner ear.
  4. Image titled Relieve Ear Congestion Step 10
    Use earplugs to filter the air pressure changes. Filtered earplugs are available at pharmacies or shops within an airport.

Part 3
Treating Congestion Caused by Earwax

  1. Image titled Relieve Ear Congestion Step 16
    Remove earwax with an over-the-counter product. Blockage, or what doctors call "impaction," occurs when the wax gets pushed deep into the ear canal.[2] Apply an over-the-counter earwax remover if your congestion is due to wax buildup. Use as directed on the package.
    • Q-Tips and other objects like rolled napkins can make impaction even worse. Q-Tips will remove some wax, but pushes the rest deeper into the ear canal, exacerbating the problem.
    • People who wear hearing-aids may also suffer from higher rates of impaction.[2]
  2. Image titled Relieve Ear Congestion Step 17
    Use a simple solution of vinegar and isopropyl alcohol to break up earwax. Equal parts apple cider vinegar and isopropyl alcohol, dropped carefully in the ear canal with an eye- or ear-dropper, can help dissolve some earwax as well as remove fluid that may be caught behind the wax.
    • Alternately, use a mild (3%) hydrogen peroxide and drop a few drop into the ear. This will clean the ear in addition to easing the earwax.
    • Note that you should not put fluid into your ear if you have a perforated eardrum or suspect an ear infection. See a doctor instead.
  3. Image titled Relieve Ear Congestion Step 18
    Doctors do not recommend the use of ear candling.[2] Ear candling is when you take a hollow cone made of paraffin and beeswax with cloth, light one end and place the other end in the ear. This is supposed to create a vacuum, drawing wax out of the ear. Clinical trials have raised questions about effectiveness, however, and doctors worry about the risk associated with the practice.

Part 4
Treating Congestion Caused by Infection

  1. Image titled Relieve Ear Congestion Step 19
    See your doctor. If your congestion is accompanied by pain in the inner ear or your outer ear is sensitive to the touch, you may have an ear infection. This is especially common in young children. Your doctor will prescribe the following treatments for you.
    • Take antibiotics as instructed. Ear infections need to be treated with antibiotics to rid your ear of the bacteria that caused the infection.
    • Use a prescribed ear-drop, such as antipyrene-benzocaine. This is a numbing drug that will not alleviate congestion, but will help to ease the side effect of pain.
  2. Image titled Relieve Ear Congestion Step 20
    Place a warm compress over the affected ear. Use anything from a heating blanket to a hot water bottle. The heat from a warm washcloth will help to loosen congestion and ease the pain.
  3. Image titled Relieve Ear Congestion Step 21
    Consider these tips as well. If you have any questions, talk with your doctor about their usefulness and relevancy in your case.
    • Only take antihistamines if you ear infection is accompanied by congestion.[3] Antihistamines will dry out your throat and respiratory passages, so it's recommended that you drink plenty of water.
    • If your toddler has an ear infection, bottle-feed him or her upright if possible.[3] Don't put your toddler to bed with a bottle, and try to take your baby off of the bottle as soon as your child's physician feels it's appropriate.
    • Gargling with a saline solution can help ease a sore throat that accompanies many ear infections, as well as soothing the Eustachian tubes.[3] Try a simple solution of warm water and a teaspoon of salt; or water, a bit of lemon, and honey. Gargle for 15-30 seconds and spit out.


  • Avoid treating young children with over-the-counter medications unless you consult with a doctor. Children are prone to ear infections and should be checked at the onset of symptoms, as they may require more stringent methods of treatment.
  • Do not take antihistamines or decongestants for periods of more than a week without consulting your doctor.
  • Sinus infection boil spices inhale the steam will cause sneezing in break up clog.

Article Info

Categories: Ear Care