How to Safely Pop Your Ears

Having clogged or congested ears can be incredibly bothersome and sometimes notably painful. This common issue can result from changes in your environment or medical issues. 

The Eustachian tube, responsible for regulating ear pressure, may need assistance to equalize, leading to the familiar “popping” sensation. Knowing how to safely pop your ears can alleviate discomfort and help prevent potential complications. 

In this article, we’ll discuss several techniques that can help equalize the pressure in your ears and alleviate the pressure that causes that uncomfortable plugged sensation.

What Causes Ear Popping?

When there is a notable variation in pressure between the external atmosphere and the middle ear, ear popping naturally occurs as a response to equalize the pressure through the eustachian tube. 

Changes in Air Pressure

Air travel or ascending a mountain with speed are changes in altitude or air pressure that can cause pressure buildup in your ears. When the eustachian tubes are blocked, the pressure cannot equalize inside your middle ear.

This leads to discomfort and a popping sensation.

Scuba diving can also expose you to pressure changes. It’s essential to equalize your ears during these activities to avoid discomfort or injury.

Nose Congestion and Allergies

Sinus congestion can impact the Eustachian tube’s ability to regulate ear pressure.

When your sinuses are blocked due to allergies, colds, or sinus infections, it can lead to ear popping and discomfort.


Ear infections, sinus infections, or upper respiratory infections can affect the Eustachian’s tubes. These tubes serve to equalize pressure between the inner and outer ear.

Infections can cause these tubes to become inflamed or blocked, disrupting this balance and leading to ear popping.

Ear Wax

When ear wax builds up in your ear canal, it can cause issues with the functionality of your Eustachian tubes.

These tubes balance the pressure in your ears. If blocked by excessive ear wax, these tubes can’t function properly, leading to a sensation of ear popping.

Middle Ear Issues

Chronic eustachian tube dysfunction may occur due to various factors, including infections or allergies.

This condition can make you more susceptible to ear discomfort during activities that involve changes in air pressure.


Post-surgery, you may experience temporary ear pressure issues, especially after procedures involving the ear, nose, or throat.

Consult your doctor for the best approach to manage possible discomfort in such cases.

How to Pop Your Ears

There is a range of techniques and remedies that can help you find relief from clogged or congested ears. Here are some useful examples:


Swallowing remains the natural and effective go-to way to pop your ears. When you swallow, it opens up the Eustachian tubes, allowing air to flow in and equalize the pressure in your ears.

This simple action can provide quick relief, especially during air travel or changes in elevation.


Yawning serves a similar purpose to swallowing, as it helps open the Eustachian tubes and balance ear pressure.

Yawning is a reflex that you can induce to relieve ear discomfort, making it a handy, non-invasive technique for ear-popping.

Valsalva Maneuver

The Valsalva maneuver involves pinching your nostrils closed, closing your mouth, and gently blowing air against the closed airways. 

This action forces the Eustachian tubes to open and can effectively alleviate ear pressure. However, it should be performed with caution to avoid ear injury.

Toynbee Maneuver

The Toynbee maneuver combines swallowing and closing your nostrils to pop your ears. 

By sipping water while pinching your nose, you stimulate the Eustachian tube’s opening.

It’s a simple yet effective method for ear discomfort relief.

Applying a Warm Compress

A warm washcloth placed against your affected ear can help ease ear congestion by promoting blood flow and relaxing the surrounding tissues.

The warmth can also reduce discomfort and encourage the natural drainage of fluids, contributing to ear-popping relief.

Inhaling Steam

Steam inhalation involves creating a soothing, warm steam environment to help relieve ear pressure and congestion. To try this method, fill a bowl with hot water and lean over it with a towel draped over your head, effectively trapping the steam. 

Inhale deeply for several minutes. The warm moisture helps to open the Eustachian tubes, promoting better air circulation and facilitating ear-popping. 

This technique is especially beneficial for those experiencing ear discomfort due to colds or sinus congestion.

Jaw Exercises

Jaw exercises can be a helpful technique for equalizing ear pressure. By gently moving your jaw from side to side or front to back, you engage the muscles that connect to the Eustachian tubes.

This movement can aid in the opening of these tubes, allowing air to flow in or out, thus helping to alleviate ear pressure and discomfort.

Chewing Gum

Chewing gum is a simple yet effective way to pop your ears safely. Chewing initiates muscle movements around the Eustachian tube, encouraging equalization of air pressure in the middle ear.

This method is particularly handy during activities like air travel or changes in altitude.

Eating a Hard Candy

Sucking on candy can be a helpful technique to safely pop your ears. 

Similar to chewing gum, the repetitive motion encourages the muscles around the Eustachian tube to open, aiding in pressure equalization and relieving ear discomfort.

Salt Sprays

Nasal sprays can also provide relief for plugged-up ears. Saline nasal spray helps to alleviate sinus blockage and inflammation.

Just ensure you’re using it correctly by aiming it toward the back of your nose rather than the septum.

Popping Ears with Ringing Ears?

Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in your ears. It’s often triggered by a buildup of earwax, which can cause blockage. 

Ear popping might alleviate tinnitus by opening the eustachian tubes and relieving pressure. To prevent exacerbating tinnitus, avoid aggressive ear-popping techniques. 

If your ears don’t pop after trying, wait for 20 minutes and try again using methods like swallowing, chewing gum, or sucking on hard candy. Remember, always practice caution and consult a healthcare professional if needed.

Medical Management to Relieve Ear Popping

There are several pharmaceutical solutions designed to address the underlying causes of ear-related discomfort.

For Blocked Noses

Nasal decongestants, available in various forms, such as tablets, capsules, sprays or drops, can effectively clear nasal congestion.

By reducing blockages in the nasal passages, these products indirectly help open the Eustachian tubes, allowing for easier ear-popping and pressure relief.

For Swelling Nose Passages

Nasal corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medications that can reduce nasal and sinus inflammation. By addressing the root cause of congestion, they facilitate Eustachian tube function, making it easier for you to pop your ears.

Regular use under medical guidance can provide lasting relief.

Ear Tube Surgery

Reserved as the last resort option, ventilation tubes, also known as ear tubes, are small tubes surgically placed in the eardrum. They offer a more permanent solution for chronic ear issues by ensuring proper ventilation and drainage.

These tubes help equalize ear pressure and can be a suitable option for individuals with recurrent ear problems or hearing loss.

When to Consult a Doctor

If you’re unsure about what to do or if your symptoms worsen, it’s best to consult a specialist or a doctor. They will provide guidance and treatment options to help you feel better and protect your ears from further damage.

Constant Ear Pain

If you experience persistent ear pain, it may be necessary to consult a doctor. Ear infections and sinus infections can cause inflammation and mucus buildup, resulting in pressure in your ear. 

A blocked Eustachian tube may be due to allergies or underlying conditions such as a patulous Eustachian tube.

In some cases, pain and discomfort can be associated with more serious issues like a perforated eardrum or otitis media. These conditions may require medical attention to prevent complications such as hearing loss or dizziness.

Sudden Hearing Loss

If you notice a sudden and significant decrease in your hearing ability, it is a red flag requiring immediate medical attention.

This may be linked to a variety of issues, including inner ear problems, ear infections, or even more serious conditions like sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL).

Ear Discharge

Ear discharge can be a concerning symptom that warrants prompt medical attention. 

If you experience any fluid or pus draining from your ear, consult your doctor immediately to rule out potential infections or other underlying issues affecting your ear health.


If you’re experiencing ear discomfort accompanied by a fever, it’s essential to consult your doctor promptly. 

A fever may indicate an infection or inflammation that requires medical attention to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment for optimal ear health.

Ringing in Your Ears

Persistent ringing in the ears can be a sign of an underlying issue, and if you experience this symptom while attempting to pop your ears, consulting a doctor is advisable. 

It could indicate conditions such as tinnitus or ear-related problems that require professional evaluation for proper diagnosis and management.

Dizziness and Imbalance

If you experience ongoing dizziness, vertigo, or a sense of imbalance along with ear-related discomfort, it’s important to seek medical guidance.

Inner ear problems, Meniere’s disease, or other vestibular disorders can lead to these symptoms.

Enlarged Throat and Ear Issues

If it is determined that your problem is caused by enlarged adenoids, a surgical procedure might be recommended.

Growth or tumors in the ear canal can also lead to ear pain and might require further evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the fastest way to relieve ear pressure?

To quickly relieve ear pressure, you can try swallowing, yawning, or doing the Valsalva maneuver.

Sipping water or sucking on hard candy can help increase the need to swallow.

Can you safely pop your ears in your sleep?

It’s generally safe for your ears to pop in your sleep since the body’s natural reflexes help regulate pressure.

However, if you’re experiencing discomfort, it’s best to take preventive measures before sleeping.

Are there risks in holding your nose and popping your ears?

While the Valsalva maneuver (holding your nose and blowing) can help relieve ear pressure, improper technique can lead to complications such as barotrauma or even eardrum damage.

Practice caution and don’t use excessive force.

What are some home remedies for unclogging ears?

To alleviate sinus blockage and inflammation, a nasal saline spray can be used in the nostrils, which will eventually help unclog your ears as you are relieved of the sinus congestion.

Another option is to use a warm cloth or heating pad to apply heat to the affected ear, which can help alleviate pressure.

Is it bad to force one ear to pop?

Forcing one ear to pop could potentially cause damage to the eustachian tube or eardrum if done improperly or with excessive force.

It’s always best to use gentle methods such as yawning or swallowing to relieve pressure.

How can I alleviate the pressure and ringing in my ears?

To address pressure and ringing in your ears, consider addressing underlying conditions such as sinus congestion or allergies.

Using techniques like swallowing, yawning, or the Valsalva maneuver can also provide temporary relief.