Left ear feels like it is blocked

My left ear feels like it is blocked or has water in it as there is a pulsating sensation and it feels like my heart beat, it has been like this for a week or two and have tried medicated ear drops to no avail. I am going abroad to Egypt on Friday and I have concerns that the change in air pressure within the plane could affect my ear.

26 September 2016

Stephen, thank you for writing to Ask the Expert.

It sounds like from the symptoms you describe that your inner ear and middle ear may well be blocked with a build up of wax or that you have a possible ear infection.

You say that you have been using medicated ear drops but that this has not eased the sensation and problem.

It would be advisable to see a GP at your local surgery or Walk-In clinic for review as an examination of the ears to ascertain the cause is necessary, and you may need antibiotic treatment as well as medicated ear drops/oils to reduce wax build up or the presence of infection. It is recommended that if possible you get the blocked ear remedied before flying.

These days, we as a rule suggest that you do not use earbuds or fingers to remove wax build up as this can push wax further down the canal so this is why medicated drops are often recommended.

The Practice nurse at your surgery may be able to do a wash out if wax is causing the issue.

A homeopathic method of loosening ear wax is by the use of Hopi Candles but this should be done by a qualified practitioner. This works by means of convection and suction where the wax is loosened and sinus pressure released.

As you know with air travel, at the point of take off and descent there tends to be a build up of pressure within the ear which can be painful this can be eased by a few techniques;

  • Take decongestants to minimise pain and build up of fluid/ wax.
  • Try sucking, chewing and swallowing as this helps open up the Eustachian tubes.
  • Try the Valsalva technique- pinch your nose and at the same time with your mouth firmly closed exhale so that your cheeks puff out.
  • Try using ear plugs which are specifically for use when flying as these will stabilise the ear during pressure changes with take- off and descent.

Once again, we would encourage you to see a GP as soon as possible so that effective treatment can be commenced. If obtaining an appointment with your GP is difficult you may wish to seek an appointment with a private GP or the NHS Walk- In Centres.

Information re walk in centres can be found on the NHS website -

Wishing you all the best and, a good flight.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses

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