About your ears
Your ears are designed to keep themselves clean. A small amount of earwax is normal: it helps clean, protect, lubricate and fight infections in the ear canal. When you chew, cough, speak or otherwise move your jaw, you are naturally helping the wax to slide along the canal.
Why does flu cause blocked ears?
Medical practitioners are often asked ‘Why does flu cause blocked ears?’ The explanation is simple. If you have or have recently had the flu, a cold or allergies, your Eustachian tubes (the vessels that run between your ears and the back of your nose) can become blocked, leaving you feeling uncomfortable, woolly headed and partially deaf. Even if the trapped fluid in the ear is not infected, the fluid may press against the eardrum, causing it to bulge and throb. You may experience mild to very painful earache. Luckily, this kind of plug is usually temporary and goes away with the illness.
However, if your ears are blocked and you also have earache, partial hearing loss, tinnitus or itching or a discharge from the ear, you have probably developed an ear infection. Make a booking with your medical practitioner.
If you’re struggling with ear congestion brought on by flu, a cold or allergies, you’re advised by the Mayo Clinic to take a deep breath, pinch your nostrils, close your mouth and then blow. A popping noise will signal that you’ve successfully cleared them.
If you have an ear infection, you need to consult your healthcare practitioner for treatment.
Try ear candling. Ear candles are stick- or cone-shaped ‘candles’ made of beeswax and unbleached cotton cloths that have been impregnated with essential oils (Flora Force Ear Candles are infused with sage and tea tree oils). They offer a holistic way to treat blocked ears and other common aural ailments. An ear candle is inserted into the affected ear and the tip is lit. The heat from the flame creates a light suction action and the movement of the flame creates a vibration of air in the ear candle, creating a feeling of warmth and relaxation.
The ear candle does not actually remove earwax, but may soften it to allow the body to get rid of it naturally. Ears usually feel less blocked after a candling session. If you are suffering with a mild ear infection, the effect of warm smoke in the ear canal may soothe the discomfort. The process has been described as ‘a therapeutic relaxation technique similar to acupressure, acupuncture and aromatherapy’.
Ear candles and candling are regarded askance by allopathic medical practitioners, but this ancient remedy clearly benefits its users, who vouch that it soothes clogged ears. The main benefit claimed by regular users of ear candles is the release of stress, negative energy and anxiety that they experience. It all comes down to personal choice.
Don’t stick anything in your ear – that includes ear buds – to try to clear out earwax. You run a great risk of pushing the wax further into your ear canal or, if you have an injured eardrum, increasing your chances for infection. If you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, see your doctor to clear a clogged ear rather than try to do it yourself. Don’t use ear candles if you have a perforated eardrum.
Acknowledgements & Photo credits
Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.
This article was adapted in the main from the University of Maryland Medical Center’s useful guide to influenza.
- Mayo Clinic. Common cold. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/expert-answers/plugged-ears/faq-20058092
- Ogunjimi, A. How to cure a clogged ear naturally. www.livestrong.com/article/513430-how-to-cure-a-clogged-ear-naturally/
- The Healthy Home Economist. Ear candles: Helpful or harmful. www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/ear-candling-no-proven-benefits-but-you-still-might-like-it/