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Safe Ways to Pop Out Plugged Ears

Whether you’re battling a bad cold on a cross-country flight or in bed, the fullness in your ears can make an already uncomfortable situation worse.

Here’s what’s going on and how to pop your ears the right way.

When you have a virus or allergy or experience altitude changes, your ears may feel full and you may not be able to hear as usual. what happened? Your Eustachian tube, which connects your middle ear to your nose and back of your throat, fills with excess fluid, says David M. Kaylie, MD, FACS, professor and associate director of clinical surgery for head and neck surgery. Communication Sciences at Duke University Medical Center.

Just like your sinuses, your middle ear produces mucus to drain debris. The muscles of the palate and throat open the Eustachian tube to expel them.

“Every time you chew, yawn, or swallow, these muscles pull up the Eustachian tube and allow fluid to flow out,” says Dr. Kelly. “You do it thousands of times a day and you don’t even notice it, but every time you do it, that little bit of fluid in your ear runs down the back of your nose, and you swallow it, and then you even Can’t feel it. Also, air comes in to equalize the pressure.”

But if you have a cold or allergies, the lining of your nose can become inflamed and congested. “If your nose is blocked, the Eustachian tube is also blocked, so it doesn’t open and drain very well,” says Dr. Kaylie. The fluid that is usually expelled instead builds up, giving you that stressful feeling.

What if your ears seem to be clogged for no reason?

If your ears feel clogged often, not just in emergencies, that might be another story. Although Eustachian tube dysfunction can be a chronic problem, it is not common in adults.

“People who have this chronic ear fullness, who don’t have allergies or a cold or something, may not be Eustachian tube [dysfunction]; it may be something else,” Dr. Kelly said.

could be your jaw. A common cause of ear pressure is temporomandibular joint dysfunction, which causes pain and inflammation of the joint that connects the jawbone to the skull.

Your temporomandibular joints are directly on either side of your ears, just a few millimeters from your ears. These help your jaw hinge open and close.

“Because [the jaw] has to swing evenly in both positions, if there’s any misalignment in the way it opens, it could put tension and pressure on one of the joints,” Dr. Kaylie said. “This It causes inflammation and makes your joints uncomfortable.” One of the first symptoms is a stuffy feeling in the ear that isn’t relieved by popping. While the problem is in your jaw, it feels like it’s in your ears. You may even have ear pain, but your hearing won’t be affected, says Dr. Kaylie.

You may have migraines. Sometimes migraines can lead to symptoms of ear fullness that people think are related to the Eustachian tube, says Bryan Ward, associate professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins University. “But honestly, the most common cause of ear fullness that I see in the clinic is probably clenching the teeth,” he said. Pressure from the COVID-9 pandemic has made this more common over the past few years.

You may have a problem with your inner ear. Another potential cause of ear fullness is a split upper ear canal, “some are actually more common than we thought; we’re seeing more and more,” says Dr. Kaylie. First discovered in the early 2000s, a split in the upper ear canal is caused by pressure around the brain that physically erodes the small bones in your ear that detect head movement and help you maintain balance.

Although the Eustachian tube is fully functional, this disruption of the inner ear can give you a feeling of fullness in the ear. In a split upper ear canal, you can hear very loud sounds in your ear when you talk or chew. Patients with the disease often say they can hear their own footsteps, “sometimes they even say they hear their eyes moving,” Dr. Kelly said. “When they roll their eyes, they hear a squeezing sound in their ears.”

In addition, loud noises can cause dizziness in people with a higher degree of split ear canal. “If someone clapped or yelled in their ear, they would go through like a brief vertigo,” Dr. Kelly said.

Your Eustachian tube may not be working right. Another less common cause of ear fullness is a dilated Eustachian tube. In this case, the Eustachian tube remains open, rather than opening and closing as it should.

How to pop your ears safely

If you have severe ear bloating, such as when you’re sick or dealing with seasonal allergies or traveling by plane, try chewing gum or yawning. Both will pop your ears and equalize the pressure.

If this doesn’t work? “The safest way to pop an ear is to perform a maneuver called the modified Valsalva maneuver, which is basically what a diver does when trying to pop an ear,” Dr. Ward said.

This is an improved method of cleaning the inner ear, first described in 1704 by Antonio Valsalva, a researcher studying ear anatomy. To do this, start by plugging your nose and closing your mouth.

“Pinch your nose, blow into your closed nostrils, create a little pressure at the back of your nose, and then swallow hard against that pressure,” says Dr. Ward. “It’s a combination of a little bit of positive pressure and swallowing that makes the Eustachian tube open, allowing you to put some air into the space behind the eardrum.”

It’s possible, says Dr. Ward, to Do this without swallowing, but if you do, you may be putting so much pressure that you may actually damage your ears. In general, the key to doing this safely is to be gentle.

“You shouldn’t put too much pressure, but just enough to push the swallow so you can open your Eustachian tube,” he said.

If you don’t feel relieved? “Try to avoid excessive jaw manipulation to clear the ears,” says Dr. Ward. He often sees that when people can’t clear fluid from their ears, they end up moving their jaws in odd positions in an attempt to improve symptoms.

“What ends up happening is that they put pressure on the muscles around the jaw and end up replacing what’s causing the ear fullness with another cause,” he said. “They’re stuck in a brutal cycle where they just keep doing more and more jaw manipulations trying to make their ears feel better, but in reality it just puts more pressure on the jaw muscles and keeps the symptoms going Longer.”

One more thing: occasional gentle tinnitus might be fine, but frequent tinnitus might not be the best idea.

UCSF researchers report that frequent tinnitus may lead to retinopathy, a disease of the small blood vessels in the eye, in one woman. The researchers suggest that Valsalva maneuvers may increase intraocular pressure, which can lead to rupture of superficial retinal blood vessels.

Other ways to clean your ears

Prick up Ears aren’t your only option. If you have allergies, antihistamines or nasal sprays can help reduce the feeling of fullness in your ears, so you don’t need to pop in the first place. (Check out the best allergy medicines here.)

If you always have ear problems on planes, try using Afrin nasal spray when boarding and again half an hour before landing Use, Dr. Kaylie recommends. Afrin is a powerful decongestant that opens the Eustachian tube. When used properly, it is effective and safe in these environments.

“The thing about Afrin is that if you use it regularly for more than three days it can cause what’s called rebound congestion and people actually get really hooked on Afrin nasal spray because if they don’t Using it, their noses are so clogged,” Dr. Kelly said. “So, I recommend that if they’re going to use it, use it on the fly. Don’t use it on a regular basis.”

Pseudoephedrine, usually available in the form of Sudafed, another powerful decongestant , can also help, but please consult your doctor first. Sudafed can raise your heart rate and cause problems, especially in people with high blood pressure.

When to see a doctor

If you The cause of acute ear swelling cannot be identified, and you have hearing loss and pain, consult a healthcare provider to rule out ear infection. But be careful: “If your primary care doctor prescribes antibiotics multiple times and it doesn’t get better, you really have to think: Maybe it’s not an ear infection,” says Dr. Kaylie. An otolaryngologist (otolaryngologist) can help.

If your ear problem is chronic, you need to see a doctor.

“Especially if you have full ears and vertigo, or full ears with migraines, these are things to evaluate,” Dr. Kelly said.

In these cases, popping your ears won’t provide the relief you need, and your doctor can recommend more targeted treatments.

TMJ dysfunction is treated in a variety of ways, from non-surgical methods such as orthodontic appliances and physical therapy to surgery in the most severe cases.

Superior ear canal dehiscence and dilated Eustachian tube can be treated surgically.

Julie Stewart is a writer and content strategist whose work has also appeared in
Health, and
Women’s Health, Everyday Health, Side Jobs, and shapes.



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