You are here

Ear congestion in adults and children

, medical expert
Last reviewed: 07.07.2019

All iLive content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies. Note that the numbers in parentheses ([1], [2], etc.) are clickable links to these studies.

If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please select it and press Ctrl + Enter.

A common complication of infectious, catarrhal, and many other diseases that violate the perception of sound information is a stuffy ear.

The ear consists of peripheral and central parts. The first includes a sound-conducting and sound-perceiving apparatus. The central part consists of nerve fibers that form pathways ending in the temporal lobes and cortex. The range of perception of sound vibrations by a person from 16 Hz to 20 kHz.

  • Outer ear - consists of the auricle and the external auditory canal. The eardrum is the boundary between the outer and middle ear.
  • The middle ear is located in the thickness of the temporal bone, consists of the tympanic cavity, the Eustachian tube and the cavity with the cells of the mastoid process. The tympanic cavity contains the auditory ossicles, which transmit sound vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear.
  • Inner ear (labyrinth) - located deep in the temporal bone. It consists of the cochlea and the semicircular canals, which contain the sound-receiving apparatus and the receptor cells of the vestibular analyzer. The vestibular system is responsible for balance, muscle tone and body position in space.

The human ear has a complex structure. Because of this, the action of certain factors can cause the overlap of the auditory canal. This leads to a change in intra-pressure and congestion. The painful condition proceeds with a feeling of heaviness in the head, noise, headaches.

trusted-source[1], [2]

Causes of the ear congestion

There are many factors that can cause ear congestion. Consider the main causes of this pathology:

  • Colds.
  • Otitis media
  • Sudden jumps in blood pressure.
  • Change of atmospheric pressure.
  • Sulfur plug.
  • Runny nose
  • Foreign objects in the ear canal, water leaks.
  • Tumor lesions of the auditory nerve, brain.
  • Otosclerosis.
  • Hormonal disorders.
  • The curvature of the nasal septum.
  • Mobility impairment of the temporomandibular joint.
  • Allergic reactions to medicines, food and more.
  • Meniere's disease (metabolic disturbances causing coordination and hearing problems).
  • Deficiency of nutrients in the body.


Risk factors

Ear congestion arises due to the action of many factors and causes, which complicates the diagnostic process. Consider the main risk factors for the disease state:

  • Increased production of aural secretion and the formation of sulfuric plug.
  • Runny nose
  • Colds and flu.
  • Cervical osteochondrosis.
  • Vegetative dystonia.
  • Sinusitis
  • Acute pharyngitis.
  • Angina.
  • External, average, exudative otitis.
  • Allergic reactions.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Traumatic damage to the otic structure and nasal septum.
  • Flying in an airplane.
  • Immersion in water.

The overlap of the auditory canal may indicate pathological processes in the sound analyzer or adjacent organs. If the ears are laying regularly, then there is a risk of hearing loss. Disorders can develop with lesions of the cardiovascular system, exacerbations of chronic diseases.

trusted-source[4], [5], [6]


The most common causes of overlap of the auditory canal are inflammatory processes. In this case, the pathogenesis of ear congestion is associated with the action of pathogenic microorganisms: streptococci, staphylococci, pneumococci. Also, the causative agents of infection are viruses, Proteus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, fungi.

Reducing the overall resistance of the organism leads to the development of respiratory diseases, which occur with inflammatory processes in different parts of the upper respiratory tract and nasopharynx. Due to edema of the mucous and pharyngeal mouth of the auditory tube, the ventilation of the middle ear is disturbed. It triggers inflammation in the ear cavity.

The mechanism of development of hearing impairment can be associated with the transfer of pathogenic microflora of the nasopharynx into the auditory tube. In case of injuries and damage to the eardrum, the infection penetrates transtimpanally. Also, congestion occurs due to chronic diseases of the nose and paranasal sinuses, which violate the respiratory and protective functions of the organ.

trusted-source[7], [8], [9], [10], [11], [12], [13], [14], [15]


The most common diseases of the upper respiratory tract include inflammatory processes localized in the ear canal. According to medical statistics, this problem is more often encountered by children. Also at risk are people whose activities are associated with frequent flights, diving, exposure to increased background sound. In 5% of cases, the violation of the perception of sound information goes into one of the forms of hearing loss.

trusted-source[16], [17], [18], [19], [20], [21], [22], [23]


As a rule, if he lays his ears, then this is a sign of various diseases and pathological conditions. Congestion may occur against the background of other pathological symptoms:

  • Ear pain
  • Sensation of noise, jingle, squish
  • Itching and ear discharge
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Cough
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Increased body temperature.

Ear congestion in a child

Children most often face ENT diseases. Ear congestion may occur due to such reasons:

  • Inflammatory processes.
  • Sulfur plugs.
  • Dysfunction of the auditory tube.
  • Runny nose
  • High blood pressure.
  • Curved nasal septum.
  • Foreign bodies in the auditory canal.
  • Fluid in the ear.
  • Long-term drug therapy.
  • Flight by plane, abrupt climate change.

Unpleasant symptoms can be complemented by dull and pressing pains, dizziness, nasal congestion, foreign body sensation in the ears, weakness, sleep and appetite disturbances.

In the process of diagnosis, the doctor collects anamnesis, conducts a visual examination of the patient, as well as various instrumental and laboratory tests. Treatment depends on the results of the diagnosis.

If a baby has a sulfur plug, the doctor removes it in the hospital and flushes the ear canal with a medical solution. In case of dysfunction of the auditory tube, eliminate the root cause of pathology, prescribe decongestants and anti-inflammatory drugs. If the hearing loss is associated with a runny nose, then vasoconstrictor drops in the nose will help, washing the nasal sinuses with a solution of sea salt. When otitis with high temperature prescribed antibacterial agents and antiseptic drops, if the temperature is not, then compresses and warming will help. With a curved septum of the nose, surgical treatment is indicated.


Congestion of ears during pregnancy

During pregnancy, the female body is faced with serious changes, which can be accompanied by various painful symptoms. Such symptoms include ear congestion, aufonia (incorrect perception of one's voice), pain.

Reasons for the overlap of the auditory canal:

  • Pressure jumps.
  • Deficiency of nutrients in the body.
  • Runny nose
  • Otitis.
  • Sulfur plugs in the ears.
  • Weight gain too fast.

Another possible cause of the disorder is a natural increase in total blood volume and blood flow velocity due to hormonal changes. Discomfort can occur in one ear, or both at the same time, as well as on any period of gestation.

Ear congestion during pregnancy should not be left without medical attention. If, after the diagnosis, inflammatory, infectious and other pathological causes are established, then complex therapy is carried out. In other cases, women are prescribed vitamins, a balanced diet, proper rest and control over weight gain.

trusted-source[25], [26], [27]


If you leave the congestion of the ear without medical care, it will cause hearing to gradually decline. This pathological process has several stages. They differ in severity and can last for several years, triggering the development of hearing loss.

  • Easy - at this stage, the hearing ability is slightly reduced. The ear catches the hearing threshold 26-40 dB. A person clearly hears and understands speech at a distance of 4-6 meters. But if speech is accompanied by extraneous sounds and noises, then its perception is difficult.
  • Middle - audible hearing threshold from 41 to 55 dB. Speaking is perceived at a distance of 2-4 meters, and whisper - no more than 1 meter. The patient asks the interlocutor, and extraneous noise is not perceived.
  • Severe - hearing loss progresses, the hearing threshold is 56-70 dB. Speech is perceived at a distance of no more than 1-2 meters, whispers and noise are not legible. A person has difficulty communicating. At this stage of hearing loss, grade 3 disability is indicated.
  • Very heavy - according to the testimony of an audiogram, the sound threshold rises to 71-90 dB. Loud speech is not perceived, a person hears a scream and speech amplified by headphones.
  • Deafness is the last stage of hearing loss. Audiometry above 91 dB. A person does not perceive sounds without a hearing aid.

Treatment depends on the causes of the pathological condition and the stage of hearing loss. In the early stages, medical therapy, a course of physiotherapy, and hearing aid are also possible. All patients are shown a sparing diet, avoiding alcohol and nicotine, individual selection of antibacterial drugs.

trusted-source[28], [29]


The ear has a unique and complex structure. It consists of the outer, middle and inner parts, which interact with each other. According to medical statistics, about 5% of the world's population suffer from hearing impairment of various forms due to illness.

Consider the main types of ear congestion, depending on the factors that caused it:

  1. Congenital - arises due to anatomical or physiological malformations of the ear structures. It may be hereditary or act as a component of the developmental disorder syndrome (neurosensory hearing loss, microtia, etc.).
  2. Infectious - ear diseases caused by inflammatory processes as a response to the action of pathogens, fungi. For acute pathologies characterized by a sharp progression of symptoms. Chronic diseases develop due to untimely or improper treatment and can accompany a person for many years.
  3. Traumatic - occurs due to injuries of the head and ear cavity, mechanical effects. May be a complication of various injuries. For example, with improper hygiene of the ear cavity or too loud sounds there is a risk of injury to the eardrum.

Violation of perception of sound information is divided according to the degree of severity, duration and presence of concomitant symptoms.

trusted-source[30], [31], [32], [33], [34], [35]

Who to contact?

Diagnostics of the ear congestion

To determine the causes and factors that provoked the overlap of the auditory tube and hearing loss, conduct a comprehensive diagnosis. An otolaryngologist collects anamnesis and examines a patient. To clarify the diagnosis using a complex of laboratory and instrumental studies.

A comprehensive diagnostic approach allows to identify inflammatory processes in the ear structures, to determine the type of pathogen and its sensitivity to antibacterial drugs. In the process of research exclude / confirm the presence of complications. According to the results of the diagnosis, a treatment plan is drawn up.

trusted-source[36], [37]


Laboratory diagnosis in violation of the perception of sound information is carried out in the presence of complications. The patient is prescribed the following tests:

  • General and biochemical analysis of blood.
  • Analysis of urine.
  • Microscopic and bacteriological analysis of discharge from the ear.

Based on the test results, the otolaryngologist corrects the treatment plan and monitors the effectiveness of the prescribed therapy.

trusted-source[38], [39], [40], [41], [42]

Instrumental diagnostics

Another mandatory component of diagnostics for hearing impairment is instrumental methods:

  • Otoscopy - examination of the ear canal and eardrum using an otoscope.
  • Audiometry - the study of hearing in case of suspected its decline, the definition of response to the sounds of different frequencies.
  • CT, MRI, X-ray - is carried out in case of suspected intraosseous or intracranial complications, purulent processes.
  • Tympanometry is a test for the mobility of the eardrum and middle ear pits.
  • Vestibular tests - reveal lesions of the inner ear, aimed at assessing balance, dizziness.
  • Timpanocentez (tympanopuncture) - puncture of the eardrum is necessary to determine the contents of the tympanic cavity. It is carried out with exudative or purulent otitis.

The results of the above studies allow you to make a final diagnosis and make an effective treatment plan.

trusted-source[43], [44], [45], [46], [47], [48], [49]

MRI with ear congestion

Magnetic resonance imaging allows you to study the structure of the ear and to identify the smallest changes in their work. On tomography images, all details of the ear cavity are determined in various projections.

The main indications for MRI are:

  • Decreased hearing.
  • Regular headaches and dizziness.
  • Itching and redness of the ears.
  • Increased body temperature.
  • Sore throat and nasal cavity.
  • Exudate secretion from the ears.
  • Inflammatory processes in the tissues of the auditory nerve.
  • Violation of vestibular functions.
  • Tumor neoplasms and metastases from other organs.
  • Deformation with the destruction of bone structures.
  • Complications of inflammatory processes.

There are a number of indirect signs indicating problems with the inner ear: anemia of the facial nerve, loss of balance, changes in muscle tone of the face.

MRI is a painless and safe procedure. During the study, the patient is placed on his back and placed inside the tomograph, which creates an electromagnetic field. For more accurate visualization, intravenous administration of contrast (gadolinium salts) is possible.

trusted-source[50], [51], [52], [53], [54], [55]

Differential diagnosis

Ear congestion arises due to various factors and causes. Differential diagnosis allows to identify the root cause of the violation and to separate it from pathologies similar in symptomatology.

Impaired perception of sound information differentiate with:

  • Bacterial otitis.
  • Allergic otitis.
  • Eczema.
  • Otomycosis.
  • Neoplasm.
  • Inflammation of the outer and middle ear.

In the process of differentiation using a complex of laboratory and instrumental methods.

trusted-source[56], [57], [58], [59], [60], [61], [62], [63], [64]

Treatment of the ear congestion

Treatment of ear congestion is carried out in combination with the therapy of the main pathology that caused a disturbance in the perception of sound information. Consider effective methods to eliminate common causes of a symptom:

  • If water gets into your ear, you can use a cotton pad to absorb excess liquid. Bend your head to the side and jump on one leg (left ear - right foot, right ear - left foot).
  • When the atmospheric pressure drops during flight in an airplane or ascent in the elevator, pull the lower jaw forward and make circular movements with it. It will also help the resorption of candy or chewing gum, yawning, swallowing saliva or just open mouth.
  • When a sulfuric plug, insect or foreign body should consult a doctor. It is not recommended to independently try to clean the ear canal using oils, peroxides and other solutions. When using cotton swabs there is a risk of injury to the eardrum.
  • If nasal congestion is caused by a head cold, then each nasal passage should be cleaned alternately. To do this, you can use an isotonic solution of sea salt, vasoconstrictor drops. If the cause of a cold is allergy, then decongestants (antihistamines) will help.

In case of dysfunction of the hearing aid due to head injuries, tumors or chronic diseases of the body, a thorough diagnosis is carried out, the results of which make a treatment plan.

Complications and consequences

Ear congestion is a symptom of many diseases. Without timely diagnosis and treatment there is a risk of serious consequences and complications:

  • Hearing loss
  • Deafness.
  • Lesions of the vestibular apparatus.
  • Rupture of the eardrum.
  • Filling the ear cavity with purulent masses.
  • Intracranial complications (meningitis, brain abscess, hydrocephalus).
  • Paresis of the facial nerve.
  • Mastosis.
  • Cholesteatoma and others.

The overlap of the auditory canal significantly reduces the quality of life and ability to work. Proper and timely treatment of any diseases of the body and the implementation of preventive measures reduces the risk of the above pathologies.

trusted-source[65], [66], [67], [68]

Noise after ear congestion

The appearance of noise, squishiness, congestion and other unpleasant sensations in the ear, most often occurs at the time of a strong jump in blood pressure or changes in arterial (when flying or diving, lifting to a greater height).

Another possible cause of the disorder is inflammatory and infectious processes in the nasopharynx, sulfur plugs, foreign objects or fluids from the ear, head injuries. An unpleasant condition occurs in tumor formations, and may also be a sign of neurological abnormalities.

Treatment depends on the results of the diagnosis and the causes of the disorder. In order to minimize the risk of developing noise and blockage, it is necessary to avoid exposure to loud sounds and noises, if necessary, use earplugs or headphones. You should also control blood pressure, balance your diet, give up bad habits, avoid stress, take medications only for medical purposes.

trusted-source[69], [70]

Washed ear and nasal congestion

The medical event aimed at removing a foreign body or sulfuric plug from the ear canal, the treatment of purulent otitis is washing. The procedure is performed by an ENT doctor with the help of special tools and solutions in the hospital.

When properly performed, the procedure is absolutely painless, does not cause complications and contributes to a significant improvement in hearing. In some cases, patients note that after washing, the perception of sound information returns to normal within 1-2 days.

But if the ear was washed, and the congestion remained, then this may indicate a progressive inflammatory or other pathological process that requires thorough and comprehensive diagnosis.


The elimination of risk factors is the main preventive measures for frequent ear diseases and congestion. Prevention consists of preventing hypothermia, water and foreign objects entering the ear area. It should promptly treat diseases of the upper respiratory tract and any other pathologies of the body.

Also, do not forget about the headdress in the cold season and the purification of the ear canal after immersion in water. It is important to maintain hygiene, that is, washing the nasal sinuses and cleansing the auditory passages from sulfur.

Another component of prevention is the strengthening of the immune system and vaccination. Strong immunity confronts frequent inflammatory and infectious diseases, which in most cases lead to ear pain and impaired perception of sound information.

trusted-source[71], [72], [73], [74], [75]


In most cases, ear congestion has a positive prognosis, as it passes after the elimination of the causes and factors that provoked it. If the violation is one of the complications of otitis or other diseases of the body, then its outcome depends on timely diagnosis and the effectiveness of treatment of the underlying pathology.

It is important to know!

Tinnitus or tinnitus is a condition in which the brain fails when it perceives sound waves from the external environment. Often, the sensation of noise is complemented by hearing impairment in one or both organs at the same time. Read more..

Found an error? Select it and press Ctrl + Enter.
You are reporting a typo in the following text:
Simply click the "Send typo report" button to complete the report. You can also include a comment.