ZocdocAnswersWhat is this stuffy feeling in my ear?

Question

What is this stuffy feeling in my ear?

Out of nowhere, my left ear will just feel plugged up. It feels like there's water in it. Then, like 10 minutes later, it will go away. Is this something to be worried about? Should I get it checked out?

Answer

This sounds a lot like eustachian tube dysfunction. The eustachian tube is a small tube that connects the middle ear to the throat, allowing any liquid in the ear to drain out into the throat and keeping the pressure normalized inside of the ear. Commonly, the eustachian tubes can become swollen and intermittently closed. This is usually because of a recent cold or other throat infection, but can also occur in other settings. Fortunately, eustachian tube disfunction is not a serious medical condition and it doesn't usually result in any permanent hearing problems. However, at the same time, it can take days to weeks for the eustachian tubes to open up completely and allow the liquid to drain. This is something you should discuss with your primary care doctor. They will be able to look in your ear and detect fluid behind the ear drum as well as look in your throat for signs of inflammation. Also they will be able to rule out other potential explanations, for example plugging up of the outer ear canal because of a buildup of excess wax in that location. If this turns out just to be wax, then they should be able to clean it out for you without much trouble.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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