Blockage in the Ear Canal - A guide to Hearing Loss

This is a common occurrence in adults and children. Our ears can become blocked on occasion and whilst this is annoying it is usually a temporary situation. A blockage can be minor or major but what is common to both is that of hearing loss. The degree of hearing loss will depend upon the extent of the blockage. If the blockage is a minor one then hearing will only be moderately affected but a complete blockage in the ear will radically affect the ability to hear.

Causes of ear blockages

It can be caused by excess ear wax but other forms of blockage include colds and sinusitis and objects in the ear.

Ear wax

This is a normal function of the ear and its role is to protect the middle and inner ear from germs and other potential threats. This doesn’t usually cause a problem but in some cases it builds up to the point where it blocks the ears and impairs hearing.

Colds and ear infections Blocked ears are just one of several symptoms of a cold. Excess mucus is produced as a result of a cold which collects in the ear canal and blocks it. This results in that ‘your head stuffed with cotton wool’ feeling. Earache as a result of an illness or ear infection can also cause a blockage. This may be accompanied by a discharge, some pain and dizziness. Balance will also be affected. If you are suffering from earache as a result of these and these symptoms worsen then visit your GP. This also applies if you experience bleeding, vomiting and a high fever.

Objects in the ear Young children are fond of inserting various objects into their noses, mouths and ears. This is a harmless activity and the object in question usually makes its own way out of the ear.

But if the object is still within the ear after 24 hours or causes swelling, bleeding and pain then seek medical advice. It may be tempting to try and remove this yourself but resist the temptation because there is a risk of further damage by pushing the object even further into the ear.

Treatment for a blockage in the ear canal

These include inserting a few drops of warm almond oil into the ear to help soften the wax. This will enable it to exit the ear more easily. If this has built up to a great extent and this treatment doesn’t work then you will need to visit your GP to have ear irrigation. If your ear blockage is caused by a head cold then this usually resolves itself once the cold disappears. If it doesn’t or the symptoms worsen then antibiotics may be required. If your child has inserted an object such as a small toy into their ear then this will probably come out of its own accord. But if it doesn’t or is accompanied by bleeding, pain or swelling then medical attention will be needed. Any hearing loss experienced as a result of a blocked ear is usually temporary and normal hearing returns once the blockage is cleared.

Hearing Loss

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