Help me unstop my ear (maybe a little gross)

My left ear is totally stopped up, and has been for the past two days. It’s driving me bonkers. The effect is not unlike having a wad of cotton stuffed in my left ear: sounds heard in that ear are extremely muffled and difficult to hear.

I suspect ear wax buildup, though that’s strictly a guess on my part. I’ve tried wiping the ear out manually with a Kleenex. I’ve tried one of those ear wax softener solutions you can buy from the drugstore. I’ve stayed away from Q-Tips 'cause my momma always told me you could hurt your ears with them, and they only make the problem worse by further compacting the wax.

My next step is a trip to the doctor. I’d like to avoid that if possible – this is the kind of stupid little problem that is probably overkill for a licensed physician. And I can’t make an appointment until tomorrow anyway.

So my question: do any of you guys have an effective home remedy type solution for this annoying little problem?

I’m going bonkers over here. Help me SDMB, you’re my only hope.

If it’s not wax, but fluid in the ears, you might have otitis media (which of course should probably be seen by your doc)

In the meantime, try the valsalva technique, pinch your nose and try to breath out through your nose.

If it IS wax and the OTC stuff doesn’t work, you probably will need to see your primary care doc anyway. I had bad wax build up when I saw my doc for other reasons…the nurse used a waterpik like thing to dislodge the wax and then a bulb syringe to drain it away.

IANAD but a Dr did this to me once:

This has worked for me. Lay on your side and pour in some hydrogen peroxide. Let is soak for several minutes, hold towel to the ear and turn over. Follow up with some alcohol to dry your ear out.

They sell flushing systems that I’ve used with some success, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them. If you’re sure it’s just wax build up and you don’t have any pain, it might be worth a shot.

Or just go to the doc.

I had that once.

I went to the ears doc and he just sucked it out using this some vacuum cleaner like instrument.

And my 2¢ non-MD advice:

Sometimes when your ear is “stopped up,” it’s actually a partial vacuum. What happens is the air in your middle ear is constantly, but slowly, absorbed by the surrounding tissue. The Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the throat helps keep the pressure equalized.

However, sometimes the Eustachian tube can become irritated, as through allergies, and doesn’t open properly. Normally, it’s closed, but when you swallow, it opens and lets in air. When the tube doesn’t open, the air in your ear gets absorbed, and with fewer air molecules, things can sound muffled.

That’s not to say that’s your problem, but sometimes a stopped-up ear is actually just the opposite–too little (air) in the ear.

The best way to deal with it is diagnose the problem first. So if simple measures like steam, decongestants, and the like haven’t helped, I’d recommend having a doc look inside to see what’s happening. I’ve had patients insist their ear was full of wax, and spent a lot of time digging and flushing to no avail, only to have me pronounce the ear canal perfectly clear (except for the horrible bloody trauma caused by digging out non-existant wax), with fluid behind the drum. And vice versa.

There’s no substitute for actually taking a look in the ear to see what’s going on.


You said you tried a softener; did you try the kit with softener and the bulb to irrigate? That worked well for me once.

DO NOT USE A QTIP. It will pack it in tight and guarantee that you have to see the doc.

I’ve had this problem before. I went to doc that wasn’t my usual physician who used a vacuum, and he must have hit my eardrum or something repeatedly, and it hurt like a FUCK. My regular doctor used a hand-powered irrigation device, looked like a huge syringe (without a needle) that worked with no pain. Since then, I’ve had to use the home bulb kit once or twice that worked fine.

This happens to me fairly often (I’m clogged up a log because of allergies). I just go to a Walk-In clinic and nurse uses that water squirter bulb thingy. It takes all of 5 minutes and works great.

I’ve used the OTC stuff with the bulb for many years. It works pretty well, but sometimes takes several applications over the course of a couple of days. Use warm water to flush with the bulb. I’ve dislodged some fairly hefty wax plugs with this. OBTW, this seems to be common in people who work around loud noises, such as construction. I guess it’s the ear’s mechanism to try to defend itself.

I wouldn’t mess around too much with your ears. You can really hurt yourself and do permanent damage! After growing up with constant ear problems including several burst ear drums and many days of not being able to hear for one reason or another, I make it a point to always go to the doctor whenever there’s anything wrong with my ears. They can be really delicate!

What if it’s not wax? What if it’s an infection or a growth? What if it’s a BUG? :slight_smile:

GO to the doctor and let him/her tell you what it is and ask how you can remedy it yourself the NEXT time it happens.

You need to see a doctor if simple measures fail. I’d try some ear wax drops for a couple days, or gently warm some oil (such as baby oil) and pour it in your ear, holding your head sideways for a few minutes; repeating this twice a day for a few days. If neither method gets the wax out, see a doctor. Like Qadgop, the problem is not wax, at least half of the time.

There’s two different kinds of “stopped up”: full of wax, and haven’t popped.

If it’s the wax one, people have already pretty much covered it. Don’t expect a miracle right away with the over-the-counter ear cleaning kits, but keep at it; when I had a wax problem, I kept using the kit for several days until I flushed a HUGE (really, about a centimeter in diameter) solid wad of wax from each ear. It was incredible. So, keep that up.

If you just can’t get 'em to pop, stand in a hot shower, and let that warm water run into your ear for a while. That can help loosen things up. Then, after letting the water out, do the ultimate ear-popping move: hold your nose night and tight, and BLOW. Your ears will pop with a mighty KAPOW.

Thanks all – esp. QtM for doling out some free professional advice. I’ll keep with the softener today, and if it isn’t cleared up on Monday I’ll set up an appointment.

Thanks a lot – I’m gonna sleep SO well tonight now. :slight_smile:

I see the odd bug. Drowning them in oil works just fine. The doctor will take it out on Monday.

According to Cecil, lidocaine works better.

QtM already gave the best advice, follow that. Let the doctor take a look.

If you are going bonkers, try the peroxide thing (let the peroxide soak into the wax for a couple of minutes, then wash it out). If that doesn’t clear it, take some decongestant (not antihistamine – that will only make the mucus thicker) to clear your sinuses. When I dive, I take Sudafed for a day beforehand and a couple days after. If I get a severe buildup, I use Afrin on the one side as well.

Bug in the ear story. I was working at the community hospital, and a guy gets triaged to us with a roach in the ear. Ever the good medical student, I took a thorough history before prodding around his ear. He informs me he has had a “problem with his nerves” for which he takes Haldol (an anti-psychotic). He admits to problems with 100% compliance, but he says that he has been OK. So, hesitantly I stick the otoscope in, and with some relief, see two antennae twirling back at me. I put an emesis basis under his ear. got a 60 ml syringe of hydrogen peroxide, and flushed that sucker out. It took about 5 or 6 squirts, but it jumped out into the emesis basin, where it promptly jumped out and made its escape to commune with the millions of other roaches at the community hospital.

Hmm. I wonder if the guy could hear the roache’s little antennas twiddling around in there.

Instead of peroxide, which might do some damage, you can use olive oil. I had the same problem a couple of months ago and the doc just told me to wash my ears out with olive oil. Worked a treat. (And don’t use q-tips, they can cause damage).
But always go to a doctor or pharmacist if you’re worried.

I am having this problem right now as well. It’s upsetting… hard to hear my co-workers, and a little odd on the balance.

Last time it happened, I went to a walk-in clinic and on the doctor’s advice bought some light mineral oil. I’ve been dropping it in with a dropper and it’s definitely softening things, but my ears are not clear yet.

Previously, in another clinic, the doctor squirted the blockages out with a water-jet device. I was astonished by the sheer amount of crud that had accumulated…