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Ear Congestion – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

What is an Ear Congestion?

Ear congestion happens when there is something that clogs the ear that definitely disrupts one’s hearing. Most of the time, ear congestion is a temporary condition and is usually associated with nasal congestion perhaps secondary to allergies, cold, or flu.

To have a better understanding of the condition, let us take a minute to take a look at the basic anatomy of the ear. The human ear is composed of the external, the inner, and the middle ear. The middle ear is an air-filled space and houses the three tiny yet vital bones that transmit sound vibrations to the inner ear. In addition, the middle ear also connects to the nasal cavity through the Eustachian tube that functions to equalize the pressure between the middle ear and the environment outside. Once there is an accumulation of fluid within the middle ear, it results into congestion, disrupting the transmission of vibrations.

Symptoms of Ear Congestion

The symptoms of an ear congestion are as follows:

  • Muffled hearing which may appear suddenly or may happen for a period of time
  • Popping noises in the ear
  • Feeling of stuffiness and fullness within the affected ear
  • There is no pain
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fever

Ear Congestion Causes

The following are conditions in the ear that would lead to its congestion:

Acute Otitis Media

This is an infection in the middle ear wherein a virus or a bacteria into the Eustachian tube, causing inflammation. The accumulation of fluid with the middle ear would cause congestion, limiting the movement in the eardrum. Acute otitis media is more common in infants and young children.

Serous otitis Media

In this condition, there is an accumulation of noninfected fluid in the middle ear. Usually, serous otitis media happens after a bout of acute otitis media. This condition may also be directly caused by a dysfunctional or blocked Eustachian tube. To add to further congestion are nasal allergies or immune tissues swelling at the back of the nose.

Nasopharyngeal Tumor

Tumor in the nasophayrnx, the area behind the nose that connects to the throat, will block the Eustachian tube and will thus lead to ear congestion.

Ear Congestion Treatment

Chewing, Yawning, and Swallowing

Chewing a piece of gum and swallowing the saliva can alleviate the congestion. Drink water and swallow it quickly while holding the nostrils closed can also relieve the congestion. In addition, yawning, breathing in, and try to exhale while pinching the nose and the mouth is closed will create a vacuum and thus relieve the condition.

Decongestant and Antihistamine

The use of decongestant spray or inhaler applied to the nostril will reduce the swelling and open up the Eustachian tube. The decongestant can be applied to nostril at least twice a day. Although oral decongestant can also be helpful, but it will take a little more time to take effect.

Steam Inhalation

Clogged sinuses can also contribute to ear congestion. Lean over a container or a sink filled with steamy water and use a towel to at least cover a the head to prevent the steam from escaping.

Prevention for Airplane or Mountain Travel

  • Keep swallowing liquid during descent
  • Older children about four years old and above can chew gum during descent
  • Yawning to open the middle ear

Conditions when to call the doctor:

  • Pain
  • Congestion lasting for more than forty-eight hours
  • If symptoms persist, always make it a point to visit the doctor as soon as possible

It is important to seek medical attention immediately when ear congestion persists for more than seven days because when this is left untreated, ear congestion can lead to serious ear infection that may spread to surrounding areas such as the sinuses, the eyes, and most importantly, the brain.

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