Clogged Ears and Hearing Loss

How the Common Cold Affects Our Ear Health
Last update on Oct, 25, 2023

No one likes to catch a cold, but we all become susceptible to this common virus each year. You may be familiar with cold symptoms that range from runny nose to sore throat and sinus congestion, but have you ever experienced clogged ears from a cold?

Why Do We Experience Clogged Ears from a Cold?

The common cold develops from a virus that leads to inflammation of the membranes that line our throat and nose. The Eustachian tube connects the ears to the nose and throat, helping us maintain pressure in our ears so we can hear correctly.

However, when we have a cold, the immune system sends signals to the body to produce more mucus to help flush out the invading virus or bacteria while triggering an inflammatory response to help isolate and destroy the foreign substance.

The combination of excess mucus and inflammation, although a natural defense mechanism, causes blockage in the Eustachian tube, leading to a feeling of fullness (i.e. clogging) or pressure in the ears.

Such blockage can even result in temporary hearing loss.

A Closer Look at the Common Cold and Our Ears

In this article, we'll explore how the common cold can affect ear health, how to remedy these symptoms, and when to contact your doctor.

Symptoms of the common cold may include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Mild fever

Another symptom of the common cold is clogged ears. Again, this happens when the Eustachian tube becomes blocked due to fluid buildup caused by the cold virus, resulting in fullness or pressure in the ears. Fluid buildup can lead to infection, temporary hearing loss, or tinnitus (i.e., ear ringing).

Impacts to the ear from the common cold

Ear Infections

Ear infections (or acute otitis media) are typical complications of the common cold. They occur when the Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the back of the throat, become inflamed and swollen due to the viral infection.

This inflammation can cause fluid buildup in the middle ear, leading to pain and pressure.

Temporary Hearing Loss

Temporary hearing loss may occur with an ear infection, but it usually improves once the infection subsides. However, recurring ear infections or fluid accumulation in the middle ear can result in more severe hearing loss.

If, for example, there is permanent damage to the eardrum or other structures in the middle ear due to the infection, it can lead to permanent hearing loss.

Note: It is possible to experience temporary hearing loss from a cold without an ear infection present. If the Eustachian tube becomes blocked due to mucus buildup, it can cause muffled hearing. However, if the hearing loss persists after the cold has gone away, you should consult a hearing care provider immediately. 


Described as a ringing in the ear, Tinnitus is another ear-related complication of the common cold. This condition can be temporary or permanent, affecting one or both ears.

Tinnitus may develop from inflammation of the inner ear due to a viral infection, which can damage the tiny hair cells in your inner ear (i.e., cochlea) that are responsible for transmitting sound signals to the brain.

If you experience any ear-related complications from the common cold, consult a hearing care provider to prevent further injury to your ears.

How To Clear Clogged Ears from a Cold

Fluid buildup and inflammation can cause blockage in the Eustachian tube, leading to ear congestion or clogged ears. These conditions can progress into more severe complications, making it crucial to prevent mucus buildup during cold and flu season.


Here are a few tips on how to clear clogged ears from a cold:




Swallowing helps to open the Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the throat. You can try swallowing hard or taking a sip of water.


Yawning opens the Eustachian tube and can help relieve ear pressure.

Nasal Decongestants

Under the guidance of your healthcare provider, choosing certain nasal decongestants may help you find relief from congestion in the nose and ears. 


Inhaling steam can help loosen mucus in the ears and relieve congestion. You can take a hot shower or use a humidifier.

Drink Water

When we are dehydrated, the mucous membranes in our nose and throat become dry and thick, making it difficult for mucus to move through the Eustachian tube and out of the body.

By staying hydrated, we can help thin out the mucus and reduce the risk of it getting stuck in the Eustachian tube, leading to ear congestion or clogged ears.

Water can also help flush out any harmful bacteria or viruses that may be present in our body, reducing the risk of infection and other complications associated with the common cold.

Additionally, taking care of your overall health is vital to prevent the common cold and its related complications, including:

  • Getting enough rest
  • Staying hydrated
  • Washing your hands regularly

Ears Clogged from Cold?

Experiencing a common cold can have numerous adverse effects on your ear health, such as clogged ears or hearing loss. Therefore, it's important to consult your doctor immediately if you encounter any of these symptoms or develop complications like an infection or tinnitus.

Woman getting a hearing test

Take the next step

To find a hearing care provider near you, use our helpful clinic locator tool to connect with a professional in your area. Be sure to also check your benefits for hearing health coverage options. Stay safe and healthy this cold season!

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