Ever woken up with the feeling that one or both of your ears are ‘blocked’? You are definitely not alone as this is a really common complaint.
Blocked ears can be super unvomfortable and irritating. It can cause you to feel like you can’t hear things properly and can even affect your balance.
So why do our ears sometimes block when we sleep, and what can we do about it?
Common causes of ears blocking during sleep:
If you wake up with your ears feeling blocked, most often it will resolve itself withing a few days. If you don’t have any other symptoms then it’s probably nothing to worry about. However, if you suspect that you have an ear infection or have regular ear blockages then you shoud definitely speak to your doctor.
Wax build up
The most common cause of waking up feeling like you ears are blocked is wax build up. The wax in our ears helps to protect them from infection and also water. However, if too much wax builds up then it can block the ear canal and cause problems.
One reason you may find that wax builds up more than usual is if you sleep with airpods or other earphones or earplugs in. This prevents the wax from naturally draining from your ears overnight.
To help prevent wax build up, make sure to clean your ears regularly using a soft cloth or cotton bud. Do not use any sharp objects as this can damage the eardrum.
Cold or flu
A cold or the flu can also cause your ears to block. This is because the infection can cause the eustachian tube (the tube that connects the back of our throat to our ears) to become swollen and blocked.
If you have a cold or the flu, there is not much you can do except wait for it to go away. However, you can try taking over the counter medicines like paracetamol or ibuprofen to help ease the symptoms.
Eustachian tube issues
The eustachian tube can also become blocked if it is inflamed, damaged or infected. This can cause problems like ear infections, vertigo and tinnitus.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms then you should speak to your doctor as you may need treatment.
An ear infection is another common cause of blocked ears. An infection can cause the ear to become inflamed and swollen, which will then block the ear canal.
If you think you might have an ear infection, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Ear infections can be treated with antibiotics if they are caught early enough.
Ways to treat ears that become blocked during sleep
The way to treat the feeling of blocked ears after sleep will depend on the underlying cause.
Ear wax softeners
Most often you are able to clear minor wax buildup at home using ear wax softening drops. This is a pain free way of gently softening the ear wax in order for it to naturally come out of your ears on its own.
More serious ear wax build up can be dealt with at your local medical office and may involve using gentle suction to remove the wax from your ears.
Cold and flu remedies
Some anti-congestion cold remedies can aid your blocked ear feelings where your eustachian tubes are blocked due to congestion. Over the counter remedies can be purchased from your local pharmacy.
If the above does not work, or you suspect an ear infection or other underlying ear problem then seek medical intervention immediately.
Conclusion: Why do my ears block when I sleep?
There are a number of reasons why your ears might block when you sleep, but the most common one is wax build up. You can help to prevent wax build up by cleaning your ears regularly using a soft cloth or cotton bud. If you have a cold or the flu, there is not much you can do except wait for it to go away. However, you can try taking over the counter medicines like paracetamol or ibuprofen to help ease the symptoms. If you think you might have an ear infection, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Ear infections can be treated with antibiotics if they are caught early enough. If the above does not work, or you suspect an ear infection or other underlying ear problem then seek medical intervention immediately.