That plugged up feeling


I’ve had a bad case of cold runny nose lately and while it’s already cleared up a couple of weeks ago, I started getting that plugged up feeling on my right ear. It really affected my hearing, making it go from already bad to even worse, and I wasn’t sure whether I just experienced more hearing loss or whether it was something else.

Because I’m a DIY on the programming front, I even adjusted my right HA to compensate for the new loss. While the compensation made up for it, every time I took the hearing aids off, I immediately felt that imbalance again.

I’ve tried many things like shaking/tilting my head hard to the side (like when you go swimming and get water in your ear) to get any water out and lying on the side, yawning very hard, chewing gum, etc, to no avail. Also, every time I hiccup, I hear a whooshing sound on my right ear. But I didn’t get a feeling like there’s water in my right ear, however.

I recently went on a long trip by myself to do some moving and had nothing to do but drive and drive and drive and think and think and think. Then I remembered somebody said to me that they pinch their nose closed and close their mouth and blow hard to clear their ears out when they’re on a descending plane that’s causing a pressure imbalance to their ears. I tried that out and lo and behold, my right ear cleared out right away after hearing some bubbling on my right ear. Then the right hearing aid sounds louder than normal, but that’s because I overcompensated it to make up for the new hearing loss.

Just thought I’d share this on this forum in case somebody runs into a situation similar to mine and this tip proves helpful to them, too. I’m sure this trick is nothing new to a lot of people, but I’ve never tried it before. Usually yawning or chewing gum or swallowing cleared my ears when on a descending plane. I’d never had to resort to that action to clear out my ears.

Just be careful to do it when you’re sitting down and not driving. I didn’t know better and I was driving and the blowing out caused me to get dizzy and become disoriented after a few seconds. Luckily it didn’t last very long or else it’d be a disaster waiting to happen while you’re driving.

I’m so relieved now, because I was almost set to go see an ENT to check my ear out to see what’s wrong. Glad I didn’t have to. Now I’d just have to go back to the HA programming and put things back to normal. By the way, I didn’t really adjust the amplification in the programming per se. I reran the in-situ audiometry and found out that I had to up the threshold point in the 1-2KHz region up by quite a bit to hear it. But after the in-situ was done, I let the HA be re-prescribed to the new in-situ result. That way the new amplification is prescribed at the exact right place where the new (temporary) loss was occurring.

First Costco hearing test

I believe it’s called the val salva manoeuvre. When I’m aware that maybe things are a little more muffled than they should be, I do that and hey presto. That kept me going for a couple few decades before I finally gave up and got HA’s. I used to be frustrated about it thinking why can’t that be my normal. Oh well. That’s why we’re here. :slight_smile:
I still do it though.
You DO have to be careful though. As soon as it clears STOP. And don’t whale on it. Add pressure. If you start not feeling right - stop.


If one has an infection, there might be a concern that a valsalva maneuver could blow infected mucus through the eustacian tube into the middle ear???


I speak under correction, but I think that is very dangerous to do. You could rupture your ear drum like that.

I would rather recomend using hydrogen peroxide for ear infections as well as getting rid of hard wax.

This is far safer.


Yeah, that’s why my instinct said not to do it for a long time but in the end I did it out of desperation. I didn’t think of the ramification of that maneuver when I did it, to be honest. I’m glad folks are chiming in with their knowledge about it.

I don’t think I had an ear infection because there would have been some sign of pain. I don’t think it was hard wax either because when I hiccup/regurgitate I heard a swooshing sound in that ear like a liquid or mucus getting stuck inside somewhere. I’m not sure if pouring hydrogen peroxide inside would help dislodge it.

Also, when I did it, there seems to be various degrees of hardness that you can control. At first I didn’t blow very hard, just to test the water. Then I blew a little bit harder at a time until things cleared up for me. It took about 3 tries to clear it up.

I wonder if I went to an ENT doctor, what they would have done about it. Whether they could have gone deep inside to suck anything out?


Hydrogen peroxide doesn’t just dislodge things like wax. its like a disinfectant and it sort of disolves things like mucus etc so would sort of clean the ear of any infections. You don’t have to feel pain to have an infection. I have had that swooshing sound before - sort of like water lodged in your ear that you can never get out!

I think the peroxide would have fixed that. I had that before I found out about the hydrogen peroxide and I think my swooshing problem went away over time. If I ever get it again, I will try the hydrogen peroxide as I would be afraid of rupturing my ear drums.


Thanks for the tip! I’ll definitely consider using hydrogen peroxide next time I have that problem then. It’s a great forum to learn things from!


I don’t think hydrogen peroxide would help a blocked eustachian tube equalize air pressure. It would be on the wrong side of the ear drum. Hydrogen peroxide can also be irritating to the skin. Holding nose maneuver has the theoretical potential of forcing an infection into the middle ear or rupturing an eardrum, but I’ve never heard of it. If it happens it’s not common. If one is going to do this though, it should be gentle as Z10 mentioned. I don’t think it’s really a valsalva maneuver. Valsalva is bearing down. It stimulates the vagus nerve and slows the heart.


I am just nervous about rupturing ear drums. It does happen, though properly rarely.

I never had the chance to use the Hydrogen for my ear problem when I had it, so I can’t say. You are probably right that being the wrong side of the eardrum it would have had no effect, but its worth a try.

Yes I have had issues with using hydrogen irritating the ear. When I have had that issue, I just don’t use the hydrogen. I have found its far better than olive oil for gettting wax out though.


Well…I’ve been doing it much of my adult life. Maybe my ear drums are lazily flapping in the breeze now but no medical practitioner has mentioned anything about ruptured ear drums.
I definitely don’t do it when I am plugged up from a cold or whatever for obvious reasons. I would have to really push hard to do anything. No thanks.
But yeah sometimes I push pretty hard and sometimes it doesn’t go. I wait.
There is the odd occasion when it goes and I don’t relax quite quickly and I go “whoa…what have I done”. Again…no ruptured ear drums here.

I think divers do this as well as pilots.

I remember as a kid having extreme pain descending in a plane. Then some time afterwards I learned about this idea. No more pain in future flights.
The chewing gum and yawning never seemed to do it for me.


Well I guess it is safer than I realised to do that. Especially if you start off gently and don’t apply too much pressure I guess.


Absolutely. Add the pressure. Don’t go whamo right off.


Over the years, I’ve tried “holding nose and gently blowing” to relieve clogged ears with mixed results … works 4 out 5 times ; 1 out of 5 it GETS WORSE. I don’t like that severely plugged feeling that results on failures and don’t care to risk it’s attendant infection possibility. Since many days I drive up/down a mountain a time or two (about 1500 feet elev change), I need to clear my ears often.

I now use a different technique. I open my mouth slightly and flex jaw muscles to freeze jaw position (jutting jaw slightly is an option to include). In this momentary position, I force a yawn. This generally works on airplanes and on mountain driving. Success rate is about 3 out of 5. A failure just means NOTHING happens (good or BAD) and time to try again. 3 or 4 repeats max generally clears the most resistant condition.

Even if I have a cold, I can use this without hesitation.


I can force a yawn easily myself, too. It helps on airplanes. But it didn’t help at all for that plugged up feeling that I just cleared up by blowing into closed nose/mouth. I redid my in-situ audiometry test today and the result was much better than my previous in-situ data, and even slightly better than the original audiogram I had two years ago at the audi’s.


Moments before all my tests and doing my own in situ I had done the clearing.


I’ve seen a case where valsalva maneuver has resulted in retinal detachment, and that is a well-known enough outcome that it musn’t be dramatically uncommon. You hear of cases here and there where it does result in eardrum rupture, and I imagine you’d be at increased risk of this if you had a history of perforation resulting in a weak patch in your ear drum. So you do have to take care and do it gently. Generally fluid in the middle ear just needs time to clear out. Sometimes a few months, unfortunately. Yawning, chewing, pushing fluids, getting enough sleep for general illness recovery are all good.

Peroxide does work to debraid wax from the wall of the ear canal, and it is the main ingredient in a lot of wax removal drops. Most people tolerate it. It will not have any effect on middle ear fluid. If you have an unknown perforation in the TM, peroxide will hurt like hell in the middle ear.

I actually have voluntary control over popping open my eustachian tube (if it’s not too gummed up), and tensing that muscle does cause a bit of a sensation in my jaw similar to what onegooddonebad describes. It’s useful for rapid airplane descents. A good minority of people have that muscle control, and another group has control over the tensor tympani muscle (makes a rumbling sound in your ears when you tense it). I hypothesize that there is also an overlap in control over these muscles and the ability to wiggle your ears.


I think this is what happened to me. It’s been about 3 weeks since my sinus runny liquid cleared out but I still had the fluid in the inner ear.

Now that I had gone through this once and know what happened and how I can clear it sooner although with some risk, rather than waiting for it to clear out on its own eventually, I wonder if I’ll have the patience to wait it out and let it clear out by itself or not next time.

I wonder I’d gone to an ENT doctor about this issue, what he/she would have done. Seems like there’s nothing they can do that’s not invasive anyway. I’m curious whether they would have advised me to wait it out, or suggested that I should do this maneuver gently.


Is there a scope of some sort to run up the nose into the eustachian and have a peek at the inner ear and also to drain and ventilate behind the TM?
They have the stomach scope, the southern scope, the not so southern scope…ear?


Probably told you to wait ~3 months, and if it hadn’t cleared out by then put a tube in your eardrum. Common procedure for toddlers, who are at high risk of having fluid in the middle ear during the critical phase for language development. Kids have to be anaesthetized because they are squirmy, but in adults it can be done awake.


Wow, OK. I didn’t know that there’s a way to put a tube through (in?) your eardrum without perforating it. But then I don’t know anything much about the ear or ENT stuff in general anyway.

Probably makes sense for an ENT to tell you to wait for 3 months as a safer answer than telling you to do any kind of maneuver that may blow back to them if there’s risk involved. After all, they’re not the one who has to suffer the hearing loss for those 3 months anyway.