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"Why won't my ears pop?"


I had a bad cold for almost a week. For the past few days my ears have been stuffed. Doing the "yawn thing" I usually do to make my ears pop had no effect, positive or negative, for 2 days. Now the right ear seems to have popped, but the left ear still feels (and sounds) like there is water in it (like after a shower). I can't hear very well this way.


This can be an extremely frustrating symptom of any cold, and can, unfortunately, last for some time. This sensation of not being able to "pop" your ears has to do with the fluid not being able to drain appropriately into the back of your mouth. As the inside of your inner ear is lined with mucous secreting cells just like the rest of your upper aerodigestive tract, this fluid needs an outlet.

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Normally, this outlet is through your eustachian tube, but when you get swelling or inflammation in the back of your throat or the tube itself, the swelling can cause this very narrow tube to close. These can then, occasionally, turn into ear infections, especially in children (due, in part, to variations in the anatomy of the child's ear). So now, what to do about it? First, get better. Get plenty of rest, drink fluids, wash your hands frequently, all the usual stuff for any cold so that the inflammation can go down and the cold will go away. Next, some of the normal cold medications that you take to reduce mucus can also help to decrease the inflammation of the upper airway and improve the symptoms you are complaining of. Please talk to a physician if you are pregnant or have other medical conditions, and please talk to a physician if you begin experiencing dizziness, ear pain, or other new symptoms, or if these symptoms don't resolve soon.

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