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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Plugged ears

05/29/2007

Question:

I am 41 years old female and I have now had my ears blocked for two weeks. I was first given a Z Pak for a sinus infection and was later given Clariten D and Flonase when my ears remained plugged. Nothing seems to be working and I have had some pain but no alot from my ear down to my throat. The pain is not very bad, but I still need to know how to get my ears to unstop. I have a difficult time hearing from my left ear and occassionally my right ear seems to want to stop up but will usually pop and be ok. I do not have a build of wax. The walk in clinic did not tell me much or how long it should take for the Clariten D and Flonase would take to work. Could you please give me some advice? Could this cause permanent damage? What should I do?

Answer:

A number of things can make your ears feel plugged.  The most common would be eustachian tube dysfunction.  The eustachian tube ventilates the middle ear space, and can become blocked by allergies, a viral upper respiratory infection, or any source of nasal congestion.  The medicines you've been taking can help if the problem is allergy related.  You might also try valsalva, which is holding your nose and trying to pop your ears.

An unsuspected hearing loss can also cause a sense of fullness in the ears.  For this possibility, a hearing test would be helpful.

A condition called TMJ, which is an inflammation of the muscles that work the jaw, can create a sense of fullness in the ears.  This condition is most often seen in people that grind their teeth at night.

Since this is going on for two weeks, I suggest you consult an ENT physician for further evaluation.  

For more information:

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Response by:

Allen M Seiden, MD Allen M Seiden, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology, Director of Division of Rhinology and Sinus Disorders, Director of University Taste and Smell Center, Director of University Sinus and Allergy
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati