How To Unpop Ears

Cleveland Clinic: “Airplane Ear.”

How to Pop Your Ears

When your ears pop, it may be due to flying, scuba diving, hiking a mountain, or just riding in an elevator. When air pressure decreases around you as you go higher or increases as you go lower, the pressure in your ear isn’t equal. This causes pressure on one side of your eardrum, and it can be painful. But the pain is temporary and you can ease it.

When you feel this pressure, you may want to pop your ears to relieve it. There are several ways to do that.

The Process of Popping Your Ears

The part of your ear that pops is in your Eustachian tube. This tube is made to protect your middle ear and ventilate it. The Eustachian tube works to keep air pressure equal on both sides of your eardrum.

When pressure builds up in your middle ear, your Eustachian tubes will open. The pressure in your ear equalizes when the tubes open. This is what makes your ears pop, to relieve pressure and potential pain.

Pop Your Ears by Holding Your Nose

One of the most recommended ways to pop your ears is by holding your nose and blowing out. First, take a breath. Then close your mouth and nostrils with your fingers. Lightly blow out against the pressure. This should make your ears pop.

The pressure you’re blowing against forces your Eustachian tubes open a little which drains pressure and fluid stuck in your ear. It’s a common misconception that this method is dangerous. As long as you don’t force too much pressure or sneeze like this, you won’t have risks of bursting your eardrum.

Pop Your Ears by Blowing up a Balloon

A unique way to pop your ears is by blowing up a balloon. The pressure you’re using to expand the balloon helps push air up to your Eustachian tube. You can use this method any time you feel pressure buildup or fullness in your ear.

There are balloons that you can buy specifically to help pop your ears. If this is a common problem you have, you can try these out. These balloons work by using your nose to blow it up and block off one nostril at a time. These balloons are mainly for children who have repeated buildup in their ear.

You shouldn’t do this method if you have a cold or a runny nose. This could cause infected mucus to go into your middle ear and give you an ear infection.

Pop Your Ears by Flexing Your Jaw

In some cases, people who flex the muscles behind their jaw will help their ear pop. This flexing can open the Eustachian tube to release the pressure.

This method may be a little gentler on your ears than using your nose to pop them. If you’re flying or using an elevator and feel a pressure change, you can work your jaw to avoid a build-up of pressure. ‌

Pop Your Ears by Yawning

By opening your mouth to yawn, you’re swallowing air. The swallowing and movement of your mouth can help pop your ears, equalizing the pressure inside and outside of your ears.

Pop Your Ears by Swallowing Often

By swallowing water or another drink your ears will pop, equalizing the pressure. A more intense method to pop your ears by swallowing is to pinch your nose closed. This creates a vacuum in your nose that helps your Eustachian tubes open.

Chewing gum during pressure changes is also a common way to pop your ears. Chewing gum or sucking on a mint helps your mouth salivate more and causes frequent swallowing. The action of moving your jaw to chew can also equalize the pressure.

When to See a Doctor

If your ears often feel like they need to be popped, you might have an underlying health condition called Eustachian tube dysfunction. This happens because your tubes can’t equalize pressure well. It can make your ears feel full constantly.

If your doctor says you have the condition, they’ll recommend the right treatment plan for you. They may prescribe a decongestant, antihistamine, or allergy shots. Your ears may be bothered when flying or during allergy season. In severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to fix the problems in your Eustachian tubes.

Show Sources

Canadian Medical Association Journal: “Effect of nasal balloon autoinflation in children with otitis media with effusion in primary care: an open randomized controlled trial.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Airplane Ear.”

Health Technology Assessment: “Interventions for adult Eustachian tube dysfunction: a systematic review.”

KidsHealth: “Flying and Your Child’s Ears.”

Seattle Children’s: “Ear – Congestion.”

Stanford Health Care: “Treatments for Eustachian Tube Dysfunction.”

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston: “Eustachian Tubes: Pop It Like It’s Hawt.”

How to Unpop Your Ears with 8 Great Methods

The Eustachian tube extends from the inner ear to the back of the nose and throat. One of the functions of the tube is draining mucus. The swallowing reflex causes the Eustachian tube to open and close irregularly, which in turn normalizes the pressure on both sides of the eardrum. Sometimes the tube does not open as it should and one feels the imbalance of pressure on the eardrum. The pressure difference causes an uncomfortable and sometimes painful feeling, which may be triggered by changes in altitude and the effects of a cold on the ears, nose and throat. There are many ways of how to unpop your ears to relieve the abnormal pressure and eliminate the painful feeling.

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How to Unpop Your Ears

The feeling caused by unbalanced pressure on the eardrum is often unbearable and painful. Here are some useful tips on solving this problem fast.

1. Try Chewing Motion

Chewing and sucking hard candy trigger a swallowing reflex in the throat, which causes the tube to open. This normalizes pressure on the eardrum. If you have a cold, you can combine the exercises with lozenges to relieve soreness in the throat. The chewing motion also stretches the inner ear, nose and the tube that connects the two parts.

How To Unpop Ears

2. Apply Heat on Your Ears and Neck

If you place a microwaveable wheat bag on your neck or ear, the cold symptoms reduce and the Eustachian tube opens normally to relieve any pressure. Another tip on how to unpop your ears is submerging both ears in water when taking a hot bath. Combine this tip with other methods such as lozenges or chewing gum for better results.

3. Try to Yawn as You Open Your Mouth Slightly

Open your mouth slowly until you achieve a full yawn. You may need to repeat the process several times. Stop the process when your ears unpop. You will feel the pressure on your eardrums normalizes and hear clearer when your ears unpop. You can put your Eustachian tube in the right position by tilting your head back as if you are looking into the sky and then thrust your jaw forward. You are likely to achieve a full yawn as you thrust your jaw forward.

4. Use Your Finger to Create Pressure and Remove Water from Your Ears

You will feel the discomfort and pain of popped ears when you have water in your ears. To relieve this discomfort, bend over at the waist until the popped ear is parallel to the ground. Use the pad of one of your fingers to make on and off motions as you would use a toilet plunger. These movements change the pressure in your ear and will either unpop your ear or remove the water. Avoid sticking your finger into your ear. This could cause a hearing damage.

5. Try Valsalva Maneuver

This concept involves applying a counter pressure on the tube by exhaling or blowing gently. Exhale gently as you pinch your nose and close mouth. This exercise opens up your Eustachian tubes and normalizes the pressure. You must be very gentle when trying this method. You could irritate and inflame your tubes and block your ear canal if you use too much force in the process or repeat the process frequently. When doing this maneuver, you can try bending as if you are touching your toes or release your nose and suck in large amount of air for better results.

6. Flush Congested Sinuses with Warm Water

Congested sinuses could result from an allergy or cold. Sinuses plug your ears and destabilize the pressure in your ears until they feel like they need to pop. You can relieve the feeling by flushing the sinuses with warm salty water. Flush them gently and regularly. Fill a neti-pot with warm salty water. Tilt your head and pour the salty water through one nostril over a sink. The water will flow through the sinus cavity to the other nostril. Increase the pressure if your sinuses are very congested.

Be proactive and get medication for the sinuses. Do not wait until your sinuses are too clogged or congested. Protect your ears by purchasing an OTC decongestant, such as decongestants or antihistamines. You are likely to feel a lot of pain and pressure as you try to unpop your ears if you have regular sinuses.

7. Use a Doctor’s Prescription

If you try all the concepts outlined above and still don’t know how to unpop your ears, seek medical attention from a doctor. Your doctor is likely to prescribe an ear popper. The ear popper helps normalize the pressure and unpop your ears. An ear popper may be expensive but is effective in relieving the discomfort and pain. Ensure that you follow the doctor’s instructions on how to use it to avoid further complications.

8. Drink Enough Water

Drinking water exaggerates the swallowing reflex and changes air pressure as the throat fills with water. Both effects help to open the Eustachian tube and normalize the pressure in your ears. It is advisable to take water in large gulps and in different temperatures. Start with cold water then take lukewarm water to increase the chances of opening the tube.

How to Unclog Your Ears

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To help unplug your ears, you may want to try “popping them” by plugging your nose and blowing out while keeping your mouth closed. Ear drops, oils, peroxide, or irrigation may also be helpful.

How To Unpop Ears

Just like people often have stuffy noses, they can also have stuffy ears for a variety of reasons. Clogged ears can crop up because of:

  • too much earwax in the Eustachian tube
  • water in your ear
  • a change in altitude (you may have noticed problems when you fly)
  • sinus infections
  • middle ear infections
  • allergies

Both children and adults get stuffy ears. Kids may get them a bit more, especially when they have colds.

There are a lot of different ways to tackle the problem of clogged up ears. Some involve medications, but others you can do with things you likely already have at home.

In some specific cases, you may need to check with a doctor about getting a prescription.

Here are some tips for unclogging your ears. First, you need to determine if the problem is the middle ear, behind the eardrum, or the outer ear — specifically the auditory canal, where earwax can build up.

Valsalva maneuver

The Valsalva maneuver is better known as “popping your ears” and helps open the eustachian tubes.

An easy way to do this is to plug your nose and then blow out while keeping your lips closed (it will puff up your cheeks). It’s important not to blow your nose too hard, which could cause problems with your eardrum.

This procedure is only helpful when there are pressure changes, such as changing altitude. It will not correct conditions of excess fluid in the inner ear.

Nasal spray or oral decongestants

Nasal sprays and oral decongestants can be especially useful when flying or if you have nasal or sinus congestion. They’re often more effective as a preventive treatment.

These are available over the counter. Buy nasal sprays here.

Mineral oil

Try dripping mineral, olive, or baby oil into your clogged ear.

Warm two to three tablespoons of your oil of choice, but be careful not to make it too hot. Check it on your hand or wrist to make sure it’s a safe temperature and doesn’t irritate your skin.

Then, use an eyedropper to put one to two drops in your ear. Keep your head tilted for 10 to 15 seconds. Do this a couple of times daily for up to 5 days until the blockage seems to be better.

Hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide otic

Hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide otic can also be dripped into your ear. Combine the peroxide with warm water in a bowl first. Then, follow the steps to apply it as you would for the oil above.

You’ll likely experience some fizzing — let it do this and keep your head at an angle until it stops.

Over-the-counter ear drops

You can pick up ear drops online or at your local pharmacy. Use as directed on the packaging.

Ear irrigation

Irrigating your ear may help after you’ve made some headway with the blockage. It can be done at home.

When the earwax is softened, irrigation can help flush it out. For more information, read about ear irrigation here. If you’re ready, shop online to get started.

Warm compress or steam

Try placing a warm compress over your ear, or try taking a hot shower. A shower can help get steam into your ear canal. Just make sure to stay in for at least 5 to 10 minutes.

It’s important to remember that the ear is an extremely sensitive part of the body. Most ear, nose, and throat professionals don’t typically instruct patients to clean their ears regularly.

If you do, it’s important to be careful and to use a light touch. Sticking a cotton swab and swirling it around every night may seem like a good way to treat or prevent earwax buildup, but it can cause problems for this delicate part of the body.

When you do clean your ear, make sure that you use a light touch and don’t put your finger in there. When washing the ear, just use a warm, wet cloth on the outside portion.

There are many ways to treat issues of clogged ears at home, but sometimes seeing a medical professional can help speed up the recovery process, or at least more effectively kickstart it.

For example, both sinus infections and middle ear infections benefit greatly from a prescription. When thinking about whether or not to see a doctor, consider your other symptoms.

If you’re experiencing any of the following, contact a physician:

  • hearing loss
  • dizziness
  • ear pain
  • a ringing sound
  • discharge

These things don’t necessarily mean that something is seriously wrong. They may just point your doctor to a specific course of action.

The good news is that a clogged ear, while uncomfortable, is usually pretty easy to handle on your own. Some cases may call for a bit of medical intervention.

A clogged ear can be distracting and annoying, so wanting it to go away as fast as possible is understandable. How long it takes to go away can vary depending on what the root cause is and how quickly you decide to treat it.

Ears that are clogged from water or air pressure may be resolved quickly. Infections and earwax buildup can take up to a week to clear up.

In some circumstances, especially with a sinus infection that you’re having a hard time shaking, it can take longer than a week. Getting effective treatment will help speed up your recovery time.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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