There are a number of conditions that can cause clogged and/or ringing ears. Some may be temporary, while others can result in permanent hearing issues. If you have persistent symptoms, you should see a doctor. Let’s discuss some of the common causes of clogged or ringing ears and whether you should seek treatment.
Your ears produce earwax, or “cerumen,” to protect against infection and block water and other debris. Bugs are even repelled by the scent of earwax, keeping your ears safe from invasion. Normally, your body evacuates earwax from your ear canals naturally, without intervention, but sometimes this doesn’t happen and the earwax can accumulate and cause problems.
Hearing aids and earplugs can cause the body to overproduce earwax while also interrupting the natural earwax removal process. While hearing aids and earplugs are important tools to maintain our best hearing health, the problem of accumulated earwax may need to be addressed. It’s important also to note that the use of hearing aids or earplugs are not the only reasons earwax can become impacted.
The symptoms of earwax impaction can include discomfort, itchiness or fullness in the ears; hearing loss; ringing in the ears; earache; and dizziness. Some people develop a cough or can smell an odor from excessive earwax accumulation.
Earwax shouldn’t be removed unless it has accumulated to the point that it causes some of the symptoms above. Even then, it’s best to leave earwax removal to a professional. If you have recurrent earwax impaction, a doctor may recommend a safe method of home removal, but cotton swabs and other instruments should never be inserted into the ear.
Auditory Tube Dysfunction
The auditory tube, or Eustachian tube, connects the middle ear to the nasal passages and is important to regulating the pressure inside your ear to the outside world. It also helps to prevent middle ear infections (otitis media) and drain secretions.
Symptoms of auditory tube dysfunction include muffled hearing or hearing loss, pain and/or fullness in the ear, ringing in the ears, and balance issues.
In most cases, symptoms will subside after a few days. Some people may develop the condition after trauma or an allergic reaction. Swallowing, chewing and yawning can help to provide some comfort while the condition persists. A severe case, or symptoms that persist for a long time, may require surgical intervention.
Sinus pressure can result from allergies or infection. Allergies that inflame the sinuses can also create a more fertile ground for infections, resulting in chronic sinusitis. A number of situations can lead to increased sinus pressure, and those who suffer from it routinely should see an ENT and/or allergists to help determine the best approach to treatment.
Sinus pressure can cause a reduced ability to smell; sense of pressure, pain and tenderness in the face; runny nose and postnasal drip; fever; and toothache of the upper teeth.
Airplane ear is the pressure differential that causes some people discomfort when an airplane is taking off or landing, but it can also be experienced while driving through a mountainous region or any time the air pressure is changing relatively rapidly. Some people suffer severe earaches, ringing, or vertigo when this happens.
It can be helpful to yawn, chew gum, or swallow during take off or landing. It’s best to stay awake during these times, as otherwise, the pressure may build until it is very painful while you sleep. The symptoms can also be worse if you are ill, have a sinus infection, or have had a recent ear infection or surgery. Sometimes wearing earplugs or taking decongestants can help.
An ear infection, Meniere’s disease, and certain types of cancer can also cause clogged or ringing ears. If the problem does not persist for long, it is safe to say that medical attention is not likely necessary. However, if ear infections are recurrent or you feel your ears are clogged for more than a few days, you should seek medical attention.
At Specialty Physician Associates, we employ only medical professionals who can work together to diagnose and treat all types of afflictions of the ear, nose and throat. If you’re having an issue, make an appointment today and we can help you find and treat the root causes of what is bothering you.