How To Unpop Your Ears

How To Unpop Your Ears
Smiling medical team standing together outside a hospital

Feeling your ears pop can be quite uncomfortable. Whether you’re flying in an airplane, scuba diving, or simply experiencing a change in altitude, the sensation of clogged or popping ears can be bothersome. Fortunately, there are several techniques that can help you unpop your ears and relieve the discomfort.

One of the most common methods for unpoping your ears is called the Valsalva maneuver. To perform this technique, you simply need to gently close your mouth, pinch your nose shut, and then gently exhale through your nose. This helps to equalize the pressure in your ears and can often relieve the popping sensation.

If the Valsalva maneuver doesn’t work, you can try another method called the Toynbee maneuver. With this technique, you’ll need to close your mouth, pinch your nose shut, and then swallow. Swallowing helps to open the Eustachian tubes in your ears, allowing air to flow and equalize the pressure.

In some cases, using a warm compress can also help to unpop your ears. Simply soak a washcloth in warm water and gently hold it against your ears for several minutes. The warmth can help to relax the muscles in your ears and encourage them to pop naturally.

It’s important to note that if you’re experiencing severe or persistent ear popping, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. They can help determine the underlying cause of the issue and provide appropriate treatment options. In most cases, however, the techniques mentioned above should be effective in relieving the discomfort of popped ears.

Understanding the Ear Anatomy

The ear is a complex organ responsible for both hearing and maintaining balance. It consists of three main parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.

Outer Ear

The outer ear is the part of the ear that is visible on the outside of the head. It includes the pinna, which is the fleshy outer part that collects sound waves, and the ear canal, a narrow tube that leads to the middle ear.

Middle Ear

The middle ear is located between the outer ear and the inner ear. It consists of the eardrum and three small bones called the ossicles (the malleus, incus, and stapes). When sound waves enter the ear canal, they cause the eardrum to vibrate. These vibrations are transmitted to the ossicles, which amplify the sound and send it to the inner ear.

Inner Ear

The inner ear is the most complex part of the ear and is responsible for converting sound waves into electrical signals that can be interpreted by the brain. It consists of the cochlea, a snail-shaped structure filled with fluid, and the vestibular system, which helps maintain balance.

Within the cochlea, tiny hair cells convert the vibrations from the ossicles into electrical signals. These signals are then sent to the brain through the auditory nerve, where they are interpreted as sound.

The vestibular system, located adjacent to the cochlea, contains three semicircular canals filled with fluid. These canals detect the movement of the head and help maintain balance.


Understanding the anatomy of the ear is essential for learning how to unpop your ears and address any ear-related issues. By knowing how the different parts of the ear work together, you can better take care of your auditory health.

The Role of the Eustachian Tube

The Eustachian tube is a small passageway that connects the middle ear to the back of the throat. It plays a vital role in regulating the air pressure in the middle ear and allowing for proper hearing. When the Eustachian tube becomes blocked or doesn’t function properly, it can lead to discomfort and temporary hearing loss.

Functions of the Eustachian Tube:

  • Equalizing Pressure: One of the primary functions of the Eustachian tube is to equalize the pressure between the middle ear and the air outside the body. This is important because changes in pressure can cause discomfort and affect hearing. When the pressure inside the middle ear is different from the ambient pressure, it can cause the eardrum to bulge inward or outward, leading to a sensation of plugged ears.
  • Drainage of Fluids: The Eustachian tube also serves as a pathway for draining fluids from the middle ear. It helps to keep the middle ear dry and prevents the buildup of fluid that can lead to ear infections.
  • Maintaining Balance: The Eustachian tube plays a role in maintaining the balance of pressure between the middle ear and the outer ear. This is particularly important when there are rapid changes in altitude, such as during takeoff or landing in an airplane, or when driving through mountains.

Causes of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction:

  • Congestion: When the nasal passages are congested due to allergies, colds, or sinus infections, the Eustachian tube can become blocked. The blockage prevents air from entering the middle ear, leading to a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears.
  • Anatomy: Some individuals have narrower or more horizontally positioned Eustachian tubes, making them more prone to dysfunction and blockages.
  • Inflammation: Inflammation of the Eustachian tube can occur due to infections or other conditions, leading to swelling and blockage.

Treatment and Prevention:

Treating Eustachian tube dysfunction typically involves addressing the underlying cause. This may include using decongestants or antihistamines to relieve congestion, using nasal sprays to reduce inflammation, or treating underlying infections with antibiotics. In some cases, a procedure called a myringotomy may be performed to relieve pressure and drain fluid from the middle ear.

To prevent Eustachian tube dysfunction, it is important to practice good nasal hygiene, such as regularly blowing your nose and avoiding exposure to irritants. Chewing gum or swallowing can also help to activate the muscles that open the Eustachian tube.

In fine, the Eustachian tube plays a critical role in regulating air pressure, draining fluids, and maintaining balance in the middle ear. When it becomes blocked or dysfunctional, it can lead to uncomfortable symptoms and temporary hearing loss. Proper treatment and prevention can help alleviate these issues and restore normal Eustachian tube function.

Causes of Ears Feeling Clogged

Feeling clogged or having a sensation of pressure in your ears can be uncomfortable and even affect your ability to hear properly. There are several possible causes for this sensation, including:

  1. Earwax build-up: Earwax, also known as cerumen, is produced by the glands in your ear canal. When too much earwax accumulates, it can block the ear canal and cause a clogged feeling.
  2. Eustachian tube dysfunction: The Eustachian tubes connect the middle ear to the back of the throat and help equalize pressure. If these tubes are blocked or not functioning properly, it can cause a feeling of fullness or clogged ears.
  3. Ear infections: Infections in the ear, such as otitis media, can cause fluid to build up in the middle ear. This fluid can lead to a clogged feeling and even temporary hearing loss.
  4. Allergies: Allergies can cause inflammation in the nasal passages and Eustachian tubes, leading to a blocked feeling in the ears.
  5. Sinusitis: Sinusitis, or inflammation of the sinuses, can also affect the Eustachian tubes and cause a sensation of ear clogging.
  6. Changes in altitude: Flying in an airplane or driving through mountains can cause changes in air pressure, which can affect the Eustachian tubes and lead to a clogged feeling.

It is important to identify the underlying cause of your clogged ears in order to determine the best course of treatment. If you experience persistent or severe symptoms, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Allergies and Sinus Congestion

Allergies and sinus congestion are common causes of ear popping. When you have allergies, your body reacts to certain substances, such as pollen or pet dander, by producing histamines. This immune response can cause swelling and inflammation in your sinuses, leading to congestion. When your sinuses are congested, the pressure in your ears can become imbalanced, causing them to pop.

To alleviate allergies and sinus congestion and reduce ear popping, you can try the following remedies:

  • Nasal irrigation: Use a saline solution to rinse out your nasal passages and clear any mucus or allergens that may be causing congestion.
  • Steam inhalation: Breathe in steam from a hot shower or bowl of hot water to help open up your sinuses and relieve congestion.
  • Over-the-counter medications: Antihistamines or decongestants can help reduce your body’s allergic response and alleviate sinus congestion.
  • Avoiding triggers: If you know certain substances or allergens trigger your allergies, try to avoid them as much as possible to prevent sinus congestion.

If your allergies and sinus congestion persist or worsen, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and treatment options.

In addition to these remedies, it’s important to take care of your overall health and maintain good hygiene practices. This includes drinking plenty of water, getting enough rest, and practicing proper hand hygiene to avoid infections that can exacerbate sinus congestion and ear popping.

Summary of Remedies
Remedy Description
Nasal irrigation Using a saline solution to rinse out nasal passages and clear mucus and allergens.
Steam inhalation Breathing in steam from hot water to open up sinuses and alleviate congestion.
Over-the-counter medications Antihistamines or decongestants to reduce allergic response and relieve congestion.
Avoiding triggers Avoiding substances or allergens that trigger allergies to prevent sinus congestion.

Earwax Buildup

Earwax, also known medically as cerumen, is a waxy substance that is produced by the glands in the ear canal. It plays an important role in protecting the ear by trapping dirt, dust, and other debris, preventing them from reaching the delicate parts of the ear.

In most cases, earwax naturally moves out of the ear canal on its own, carrying trapped debris with it. However, some people may experience excessive earwax buildup, which can lead to a blocked or plugged feeling in the ears.

Common causes of earwax buildup include:

  • Overproduction of earwax: Some individuals naturally produce more earwax than others, which can increase the risk of buildup.
  • Ear canal blockage: Certain factors, such as the use of hearing aids, earplugs, or earbuds, can contribute to the accumulation of earwax by blocking the ear canal.
  • Improper ear cleaning: Inserting objects, like cotton swabs, into the ear canal can push the earwax deeper and cause it to become impacted.

Excessive earwax buildup can result in symptoms such as earache, hearing loss, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), dizziness, and a feeling of fullness in the ears. If you experience these symptoms, it may be necessary to remove the earwax to relieve the blockage.

Different methods can be used to remove earwax buildup, including:

  1. Earwax softening drops: These drops are designed to soften the earwax, making it easier to remove through natural movements of the jaw or by using an ear bulb syringe.
  2. Ear irrigation: A healthcare professional may perform ear irrigation to flush out the earwax using a gentle flow of warm water.
  3. Manual earwax removal: In some cases, a healthcare professional may use special instruments, such as ear curettes, to manually remove the earwax.

Prevention tips for earwax buildup
Tip Description
1 Do not insert objects into your ears, such as cotton swabs, as they can push the earwax deeper.
2 If you use hearing aids or earplugs, regularly clean and disinfect them to prevent earwax blockage.
3 Consider using earwax softening drops to prevent excessive buildup.
4 Avoid using excessive amounts of water or pressure when cleaning your ears.
5 If you are prone to excessive earwax buildup, consult with a healthcare professional for regular ear cleanings.

It’s important to note that not all cases of earwax buildup require intervention. If you are unsure or experiencing severe symptoms, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

Techniques to Relieve Clogged Ears

Clogged ears can be uncomfortable, but there are several techniques you can try to relieve the pressure and unblock them. Here are some methods that may help:

  • Swallowing: Swallowing can help to equalize the pressure in your ears. Try swallowing hard or drinking a beverage to encourage swallowing.
  • Yawning: Yawning can also help to relieve clogged ears. Try opening your mouth wide and yawning to see if it helps.
  • Nasal Decongestants: If clogged ears are due to sinus congestion, using a nasal decongestant spray may provide relief. Follow the instructions on the packaging and only use as directed.
  • Valsalva Maneuver: The Valsalva maneuver involves gently blowing air through your nose while pinching your nostrils closed. This can help to equalize the pressure and unblock your ears. Be careful not to blow too hard, as this can cause damage to your eardrums.
  • Toynbee Maneuver: The Toynbee maneuver involves swallowing while pinching your nose closed. This can help to relieve clogged ears by equalizing pressure. Remember to swallow gently to avoid discomfort.
  • Warm Compress: Applying a warm compress to the affected ear can help to relieve congestion and open up the Eustachian tube. Place a warm cloth or heating pad over the ear for 10-15 minutes, making sure it’s not too hot to avoid burns.
  • Chewing Gum: Chewing gum can help to relieve clogged ears by promoting swallowing and equalizing pressure. Choose sugar-free gum to avoid dental issues.
  • Steam Inhalation: Inhaling steam can help to open up the Eustachian tube and relieve clogged ears. Fill a bowl with hot water, place a towel over your head, and lean over the bowl to inhale the steam. Be cautious to avoid burns.

If your clogged ears persist or are accompanied by severe pain, hearing loss, or other concerning symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention. A healthcare professional can determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment.

Swallowing and Yawning

Swallowing: One of the easiest and most effective ways to unpop your ears is by swallowing. Swallowing helps to open the Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the back of the throat. When the tubes are open, it allows air to flow into the middle ear, equalizing the pressure and relieving the feeling of being blocked.

To properly swallow and unpop your ears, follow these steps:

  1. Take a sip of water or hold some water in your mouth.
  2. Tilt your head back slightly and swallow the water, allowing your throat muscles to work.
  3. You may feel or hear a slight “pop” in your ears as the pressure equalizes.

Yawning: Yawning is another natural way to open the Eustachian tubes and unpop your ears. Yawning helps to stretch the muscles in the throat and jaw, which can also help to equalize the pressure in the middle ear.

To use yawning to unpop your ears, try the following:

  • Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Relax your facial muscles.
  • Open your mouth as wide as you can, as if you were yawning.
  • Try to mimic the sensation of a yawn without making any noise.
  • You may feel or hear a slight “pop” in your ears as the pressure equalizes.

Both swallowing and yawning can be repeated as needed until the ears are no longer blocked. These methods are safe and effective ways to relieve the discomfort of blocked ears and can be done anywhere at any time.

Nasal Decongestion

Nasal decongestion refers to the relief of nasal congestion, which is a common symptom experienced when the tissues lining the nasal passages become swollen. This swelling is often caused by inflammation due to various factors such as allergies, colds, sinus infections, or irritants.

To alleviate nasal congestion and unpop your ears, you can try the following methods:

  • Steam inhalation: Inhaling steam from a hot shower or bowl of hot water can help loosen and relieve congestion in the nasal passages. Add a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint oil to enhance the effect.
  • Nasal saline rinse: Using a nasal saline rinse can help flush out excess mucus and allergens from the nasal passages, providing relief from congestion. Purchase a nasal saline rinse kit from a pharmacy or make a homemade solution using salt and distilled water.
  • Nasal decongestant sprays: Over-the-counter nasal decongestant sprays, such as oxymetazoline, can provide immediate relief by constricting the blood vessels in the nasal passages and reducing swelling. However, these sprays should not be used for more than 3 days, as they can lead to rebound congestion.
  • Antihistamines: If your nasal congestion is due to allergies, taking an antihistamine can help reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms. Consult with a healthcare professional for appropriate recommendations.
  • Hydration: Staying hydrated can help thin out mucus and prevent nasal congestion. Drink plenty of water and consider using a humidifier at home to add moisture to the air.

If you continue to experience nasal congestion and ear popping, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for further evaluation and treatment options.