We’ve all been there. The first swim on your summer vacation and you reemerge from the pool to find you can’t hear due to blocked ears. It’s uncomfortable, annoying and can ruin a vacation. In fact, getting water trapped in your ear is a common summertime ailment as it happens most often during swimming, but obviously, can happen at any time you take a soak. In most cases, the little water that gets stuck in ears will find its way back out however some people have a particularly hard time clearing water out of their ears due to a buildup of earwax which complicates the problem. But don’t worry, if you need to unclog your ears, try our home remedies to remove water from ears and soon you will be hearing again.
Why water gets trapped in ears
Ear wax plays a vital role in the health of your ear canal. It is produced and regulated by the body near the outer parts of your ear canal and usually works its way outside of the canal for easy cleaning. Problems start to arise when your ear produces too much wax that is difficult to remove. Your ears usually find a way to get rid of excessive wax naturally, however, there are some cases where the earwax gets trapped inside and gets compacted.
An excessive buildup of earwax in your ear canal is known to cause blockages that trap water. That trapped water along with the high amounts of earwax is the perfect place for bacteria to grow which causes further blockages and ear infections. (1)
Water trapped in your ear canal can cause problems with hearing and pain, and if left untreated it can cause ear infections, the formation of cysts or eardrum inflammation. Therefore, it is vital that you get any fluid out of your ears as soon as possible. If the fluid is trapped in your middle ear, then you have no choice but to consult a doctor to help you get it out but if it is in the outer ear, then there are a number of removal methods available to you that you can use from home.
Home Remedies to remove water from ears
Letting gravity do the work is the simplest and quickest way of getting water out of your ears. Just tip your head to one side until your ear is parallel to the ground and let the water drip out. If it needs a little encouragement, press your palm flat against your ear then pull it away quickly- the temporary vacuum will draw the droplets of water the rest of the way out. You can use a cotton bud as well to help the fluid come out the rest of the way.
2. Heat Therapy
Your body tends to expand when exposed to heat. You can use this little-known biological feature to expand your Eustachian tube which is where fluid typically builds up and let the fluid drain out with ease.
Start by dipping a washcloth in hot water then wring it dry and place the hot cloth over your water-logged ear and hold it there for about half a minute. Leave the cloth off your ear for a full minute then reapply it and repeat this process four or five times. After the fifth application just lies down on your side and let the fluid drain out of your expanded canal.
Salt is great at getting fluid out of your ears because it is very absorbent. The best way to use salt to remove water from your ears is to heat a quarter cup of it in the microwave to make sure it’s completely dry then tie the salt in a cloth and hold the cloth close to your ear for five minutes. This hot salt compress will drain the water from your ears and help it evaporate faster.
Water-logged ears are usually at a higher risk of suffering from bacterial infections. Garlic helps to dislodge the water in your ears by clearing out the ear infection. You just need to crush a few garlic cloves to extract the juice which you will then put three drops of in your affected ear. Wait for about a minute afterward and then use a blow dryer to clear out the water that remains.
5. Pop Your Ears
Clogged ears tend to make your head feel like it’s full because of all the trapped air. Popping your ears is a great way to relieve that pressure. Once the pressure is relieved, then it will be easier for any water clogged in your ears to find its way out. Working your jaw muscles helps to relieve that pressure so try chewing gum or yawning really wide. The Valsalva maneuver is another option which you can use by pinching your nostrils then gently trying to blow through them. This will place a lot of pressure on the back of your nose which should help to open up your Eustachian tube.
Caution: If you have a heart condition, it recommended that you do not attempt this maneuver due to the excess strain it places on the heart.
6. Blow Dryer
If the water doesn’t come out on its own, then you can use a blow dryer to evaporate it while it’s in there. A blow dryer works fast thanks to how hot it is, however, you should be careful to put the blow-dryer on a low setting and use it far away enough that it is not forcing large amounts of air into your ear drum or the excess pressure might cause a rupture.
Anything that opens up your Eustachian tube will help to get the water out and steam works wonderfully. All you need to do is pour boiling water into a bowl or basin then cover your head with a towel, holding it over the basin so that you can inhale the steam for about ten minutes. After that, you should tilt your head to the side and let the water drain out. Alternatively, you can take a hot shower then pat your ear canal with a dry corner of your towel.
8. Toynbee Maneuver
This maneuver works in a similar fashion to the Valsalva maneuver but with one critical difference. Clip your nostrils closed just like you would with the Valsalva but this time swallow hard instead of blowing. Experiment with both techniques to see which one works best for you. (1)
How to Stop Water From Getting Trapped in Ear
If you are prone to suffering from ear infections, then you will want to use preventative methods of keeping water out because once water gets stuck in your wax-heavy ear canal then getting it out becomes even harder.
Preventing earwax from building up in your ears is the surest way to protect yourself from water getting trapped inside. When ear wax comes into contact with water, it softens and expands filling the entire ear canal. For those people with large amounts of wax, it may feel that it is the water that is causing the blockage, but quite often it is wet expanded wax. Traditional methods for getting rid of water from ears will not work as you are dealing with a different problem as you will need to remove the wax. For some people, a heavy amount of ear wax is unavoidable, so the best thing that they can do is use these methods to keep that excessive wax soft and at manageable levels.
9. Olive Oil
Olive oil softens the wax in your ears which make it easier to drain out and unclog on its own. There are questions as to how effective olive oil is in breaking down ear wax however it is more effective than using nothing at all. To get the best results from olive oil, you should heat it till it is at about your body temperature and place a few drops into your ear once or twice a day for five days. Once the oil is in then lay down on your side to let it seep into your ear canal.
10. Ear Plugs
This is really the best solution for people who like to swim but suffer from chronic swimmer’s ear. They are designed with flanges that mimic the shape of the inner ear to fit snuggly into your ear and keep the water out so that you don’t have to worry about ear infections. Swimmers can choose from a variety of shapes and sizes so that they can use an ear plug that is comfortable to use.
11. Baking Soda
Research from the American Academy of Family Physicians (2) suggests that a water solution containing 10 percent baking soda is effective at softening compacted ear wax. Place the solution in a dropper and regularly apply a few drops into your ear and let it settle in.
Baking soda is harmless however you should not use this method if you have perforated ear drum.
12. Rubbing Alcohol
Isopropyl alcohol is a safe disinfectant that you can use to keep your ears clean. It works as both a disinfectant to kill any unwanted bacteria that is trying to call your ear canal home and also as a drying agent to keep your ear canals dry which prevents further infections. (3)
13. Hydrogen Peroxide
If you feel an ear infection coming, then you can use hydrogen peroxide as a cleaning agent to prevent the buildup of wax from breeding bacteria. The cleaner your ear-wax is, the less you will have to worry about water getting trapped in there. Thanks to hydrogen peroxide’s effervescent properties it can also be used after water has gotten trapped inside. Just apply a few drops to your ear canal, let it settle then tilt your head and let all the bad stuff drain out.
- Don’t use cotton buds unless you are using them for your outer ear. If you have to use a cotton bud then refrain from sticking it too far in because you might end up pushing the wax further in and compacting it even more,
- Don’t swim in dirty water because it will increase your chances of getting an infection
- Wear a shower cap pulled all the way down past your ears while you are showering,
- See medical advice if the water does not drain in a day or so. Trapped water, especially if wax is involved, often leads to an infection.