Is your clogged ear just annoying, or might it be the symptom of another problem?

One of the trickier aspects of diagnosing this particular ear problem is the variety of reasons a patient may feel a clogged sensation in the ear. Common causes include colds, sinus infections, wax build-up, water in the ear, altitude changes, hearing loss, jaw problems, and more.

In most cases, a clogged feeling in the ear is annoying but fixable. However, it's still worth addressing the problem, not only because it's often annoying, but also because it's best to be sure you aren't missing something more serious than a little fluid or wax in the ear.

Here are some of the most common causes of a clogged ear, from most to least common, and what Virginia ENT can do to help.

Wax Build-Up in the Ear Canal

Wax build-up in the ear is the most common cause of a clogged or plugged sensation. The only accompanying symptom may be a slight decrease in hearing. In most cases, it is simple for an ENT doctor to remove the earwax build-up in the office.

Fluid Behind the Eardrum

An ear infection or secondary issue from a nasal or sinus problem could cause fluid behind the eardrum. This fluid might appear clear or infected, and be accompanied by ear pain and/or fever. It could also be preceded by an upper respiratory illness. A physician is able to diagnose this with a physical exam.

Muscle Tension or Jaw Problems

Neck arthritis, muscle tension, and clenching or grinding of the teeth may cause a plugged feeling in the ear. This is because the jaw joint lies directly in front of the ear, and the base of the skull directly beneath the ear. If those areas become inflamed due to excess pressure, the sensory nerves that connect to the ear may become inflamed also, and ear problems may result.

In these cases, pain may extend beyond the ear into the neck or jaw. If your dentist has warned the patient about grinding their teeth, this should be taken into consideration. If warm compresses don't help with the issue, an ENT physician can refer you to physical therapy.

Hearing Loss

Sometimes, hearing loss may present as a "clogged ear" sensation in a perfectly clear ear. A hearing loss patient may not otherwise notice an impairment of hearing, and may only feel a sensation of pressure or fullness. A comprehensive hearing test can help distinguish hearing loss from other conditions that may cause a clogged sensation in the ear.

Treatment Options

In almost all cases, seeing an ENT physician when you have a clogged ear is more expedient than if you see a general practitioner. An ENT physician can diagnose and treat the problem faster and more efficiently than a primary care physician.

If you're feeling a clogged sensation in your ear and are looking for a solution, contact Virginia ENT today to make an appointment.

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