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 Ear Fullness

Individual with ear fullness and congestion

An individual with ear fullness has a sensation of blockage in the ear. This can make hearing sound muffled or a person may experience crackling or popping noises in the ear. Ear congestion may last only a few seconds or up to a few days. The feeling may come alone or be associated with other ear symptoms such as ringing, pain or dizziness.

Cause of Ear Congestion

Common causes include fluid in the middle ear, hay fever, allergies or over-excessive nose blowing. Ear pain can be associated with ear congestion in cases of infections or with airplane travel, with sudden changes in barometric pressure, which most often occurs during descent.

Helping With Ear Congestion

  • Common Tricks. Try alleviating congestion by moving areas of the face. Move the mouth in up and down motions, such as chewing gum or yawning, and try swallowing while the nose is pinched closed.
  • Use Gravity. If water is stuck in the ear canal from a recent shower or swim, help drain the area by turning the side of the head down and gently pulling the earlobe in different directions.
  • Hay Fever. If you or your child has a hay fever which causes cold-like signs and symptoms, try an antihistamine medication or use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for any pain. Hay fever is caused by allergic responses to outdoor or indoor allergens such as pollen or dust mites.

Altitude Change

Air travel is a common factor building up to ear congestion. Below are prevention methods.

  • Swallow. Try using the common tricks and repeatedly "pop" your ears by swallowing during the 15 to 30 minutes of descent in an airplane.
  • Repeat Problems. Individuals who repeatedly have this problem can try an oral decongestant or a decongestant nasal spray an hour before traveling. Always consult with your physician before any medication use.
  • Hot Towel. If severe pain occurs despite these precautions, ask the flight attendant for a hot towel to place tightly over the opening of the ear. The heat may relieve pressure on the eardrum.
  • Baby Help. A baby can be given water to drink and swallow or a pacifier to suck on.

When to See a Physician

If ear congestion for you or your child lasts more than a couple of days and ear pain develops, consult our Boys Town Ear, Nose and Throat clinic locations to schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist specialist.