I recently had what I thought was a terrible head cold. But when I went to the doctor I was prescribed antibiotics. My ears have been plugged up for a week. Is there something I can do to regain normal hearing or at least speed up the healing process?

Common colds and allergies at times do result in plugged ears. However, most of the times, the condition of plugged ears is temporary and goes away on its own in a few days time, as the body recovers from the cold or allergy. In such cases, it does not really require any specific treatment to open the plugged ears. But, in case you find that the condition is getting severe or is not showing any sign of improvement, it is advisable that you consult a doctor and find out the exact cause of your problem.

From your description it seems that you are suffering from temporary dysfunction of the Eustachian tube. The eustachian tube connects the middle ears with the back of the nose, which is known as nasopharynx, and is responsible for equalizing the air pressure in the middle ear. The middle ear air pressure is usually the same as the outside ear pressure. And Eustachian tube is the organ that helps maintain the air pressure in the middle ear. Air is introduced in the Eustachian tube when we swallow or yawn and this air finally flows to the middle air, maintaining the equilibrium of air pressure for the inner and outer ear. So, if for some reason, the Eustachian tube is blocked an air pressure difference is created. This in turn leads to improper vibration in the eardrum and therefore the hearing is affected.

Usually, this should get better in a few days time along with your cold. If it does not, you may need to take oral decongestants and nasal sprays in consultation with a doctor. You may also want to try and force air out of ear to remove the Eustachian tube congestion. To do this, breathe deeply, close your mouth shut, pinch your nostrils closed with the fingers, and then try to force and blow the air out. This method may not bring result immediately, but keep trying and you might eventually be successful. If you can hear a popping sound inside, you will know that the Eustachian tube has opened up and your hearing will recover. You can also keep trying a few other methods that may help open the plugged ear. Open your mouth wide like you do when you yawn, or keep chewing things so as to induce some activity to open the Eustachian tube. If none of these work, visit an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist who can take some measures to unblock your ear by clearing up the obstruction in the Eustachian tube.

answered by M W

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