A blocked ear can be so annoying! Common after a shower but also you can get them from wearing plugs for a prolonged time. Motorcyclists commonly wear earplugs to prevent damage to the ear from the loud wind noise against the helmet.
It is often stated that riding motorcycles is beneficial to health and mood, and while I wholeheartedly agree, a scientific study recently shows that it can also be damaging. The majority of this comes from hearing damage, both from loud cans, but also wind noise.
Motorcycle wind noise hearing damage can reach high levels even at low speeds, and with me liking speeds in the severe danger thresholds, I thought I had better start to take better care of my hearing and start wearing earplugs. The downside of this is that frequently using earplugs can cause build-up within the ear canal, and eventually, this causes a blocked ear.
Do earplugs cause blocked ears?
For me, this blocked ear issue is the only downside to wearing earplugs, if you have ever worn them regularly, you may know the feeling. Obviously, some people will suffer more than others with this, and I can’t comment on individual circumstances, but mine always tends to be my left ear.
Earwax is produced naturally by the ear, it acts as a protectant to the skin on the inner ear but also helps to protect against bacteria, germs, insects and water.
The insertion of earplugs pushes wax back down the ear canal, and if it clumps it together this can cause a blockage, leading to that muted sound in that ear, and in some cases, it can cause pain, a ringing noise and even loss of balance/head-spinning sensation.
I wear earplugs every time I ride, which translates to multiple times a week, so getting a blocked ear is common. For me happens regularly, but having a blocked ear usually provides no drama other than not being able to hear correctly, which can be a blessing in disguise. For me, there is no discomfort or pain and usually goes away by itself after a few days. While I am no doctor, I’ve found some great tips and tricks for sorting a blocked ear. If you feel any discomfort or pain, always seek medical advice, but here are a few home remedies which can help speed up the natural process.
Olive oil blocked ear
Regular use of olive oil treatments keep the earwax waxy and soft and stop it from drying out. It also keeps the ear canals lubricated to help move the wax to the outside of the ears. A drop or two every couple of days helps out when both blocked and unblocked. Treatments are available from chemists or supermarkets at a low cost. Don’t just run to the cupboards and grab that bottle of extra virgin cooking olive oil! Medical olive oil is sterilised to get rid of any unwanted bugs inside.
Home flushing a blocked ear
Sometimes a hot shower and a fine blast of water from the showerhead can help get the blockage moving again. Failing that home kits are sold containing a rubber bulb, which when filled with warm water can shoot the water into the ear. Care needs to be taken to not use water too hot to cause burns or use a pressure too high to cause more damage to the inner ear.
Chewing gum is an unlikely helper
The motion of the jaw chewing can help to get the blockage moving along the ear canal, and swallowing the saliva can cause pressure imbalances which equalise through the ears, much like when you are on a plane, and your ears pop. I often find that this method really helps, more than some of the other methods, plus it’s the cheapest! If the gum isn’t your thing, try sucking on a hard boiled sweet this will work in much the same way.
How not to unblock ears
Use of cotton wool buds or Q-tips is a no-no! Same with any other which involves insertion into the ear. Most of the time, this can cause the blockage to travel further down mostly just makes matters worse. Too far and the cotton wool bud can actually puncture the eardrum, which is a severe issue, so best not to!
Of course, if your issues last for more than a few days or if you get any pain, it’s best to seek medical advice. Most GP’s can flush or suck the wax out, with irrigation or with a vacuum.
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