Unblocking Blocked Ears

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To unblock your ears if they are blocked, it helps to know about the anatomy of the ear. Safely unblock your ears with guidance from a practicing pediatrician in this free video on ear care.

Part of the Video Series: Ear Care & Treatments
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Video Transcript

Hi. I'm Dr. David Hill and today we're going to be talking about how to unblock blocked ears. Now, from time to time, people get a sensation. They have pressure in their ears, usually in one side or the other, sometimes both. And they feel like maybe there's something in there, something stuffing them up. So, to understand what that might mean and what you can do about it, you have to understand the anatomy of the ear. When we think about the ear, we think about the external auditory canal first. That starts right here, and that's the hole, and it goes down to the eardrum. It's just sort of a tunnel, lined with skin, epithelium we call it. And then there's the middle ear, which is an air-filled space on the other side of the eardrum where the drums live that transmit sound to the cochlea. That's where the nerves are, that make sound, and also give you a sense of balance and the semi-circular canal is attached to that. So, the first question is, if your ears are stuffed up, where is the blockage? Is it a physical blockage, out in the external auditory canal in the outside world, or is it really some pressure or fluid or negative pressure in the middle ear that's keeping you from being able to hear by keeping the eardrum from moving very well? Well, if it's an outer ear infection, you may have a sense of, or an outer ear process, you may have a sense of discomfort there. There may be some itching; there may be some pain. You may know already that you have swimmer's ear, you might have drainage from your ear, or tenderness or pain when you touch it. If that's the case, you want to get the help of a doctor, who can look in there, see what's going on, and help you deal with whatever is causing the blockage. If it's a physical blockage, like wax or something, they can help get it out. Or, if it's an infectious process like a swimmer's ear, they can help cure it. Now, if what you're really feeling is either positive or negative air pressure within the middle ear, there's a bunch of stuff that could be causing that. If you just came from an airplane trip, or went thirty floors down on an elevator, you know what the problem is. The air pressure has changed. You've tried yawning, swallowing, you can chew a piece of gum. Anything that opens the jaw will also open the Eustachian tubes, and carry air back and forth within the middle ear and nose. Now, if there's pain or a popping or gurgling sound, you might have fluid or even pus in there, if you've been sick for example. And then again, you're going to want a doctor to take a look and see what exactly is happening, see if it's something that he or she is able to treat. So, talking about clearing a blockage within the ear, I'm Dr. David Hill.

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