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There are few things more annoying than when an ear feels clogged. If you’re sick with something like a cold, you likely already feel pretty crummy, so adding unpleasant ear congestion into the mix is the last thing you need.
Unfortunately, dealing with ear congestion is often the name of the game with any illness or infection that impacts the general vicinity of your head, Bradford A. Woodworth, MD, a professor in the department of otolaryngology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, tells SELF. “Because our ears, nose, and throat are all closely connected, a problem in one area often leads to another,” Dr. Woodworth says.

But there are lots of reasons that clogged feeling may set up shop in your ears, and some are a bit more complicated than others. Desperately searching for ear pressure relief? Read on to figure out what you can do about it.
Why do your ears feel blocked when you're sick? | Common causes of ear congestion | Will a clogged ear go away on its own? | How to relieve ear pressure

Why do your ears feel blocked when you’re sick with something like a cold or flu?

Your ears, nose, and throat link up via tiny canals called eustachian tubes1. These tubes, located on each side of your head, start in the middle of your ear and end at the back of your nose and upper throat, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
These tubes open and close regularly to adjust the air pressure in your middle ear, remove natural fluids from your middle ear, and circulate new air inside your ear, according to the Mayo Clinic. When you’re dealing with something like a respiratory infection, which includes things like the common cold,2 flu, or COVID-19, your eustachian tube openings can become partially blocked due to tissue inflammation and mucus secretions, Dr. Woodworth says.

This blockage can interfere with the normal functioning of the tubes, leading to a pressure imbalance, Anthony Del Signore, MD, director of rhinology and endoscopic skull base surgery at Mount Sinai Union Square in New York City, tells SELF. When the eustachian tubes are partially blocked, it’s harder for those middle ear secretions to flow down the back of your throat (yum), which can make your ear feel clogged.
If you feel like you always wind up with ear congestion when you’re sick, know that some people’s eustachian tubes are naturally shaped in a way that makes them more prone to ear discomfort while ill, Dr. Del Signore says. Eustachian tubes that are narrower or more horizontal than average make it easier for fluid to collect in the middle ear. (Children’s eustachian tubes are shaped this way, which is part of the reason why ear issues are more common in kids, according to the Mayo Clinic.) Other people might have more abundant mucous linings at the opening of their eustachian tu
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