Blog,Hearing Health

Clogged Up After Your Holiday? The Causes and Cures for Post-Vacation Ear Troubles

Ah, you finally got back from that dream beach holiday in the tropics. As you unpack your bags, reminisce about the turquoise waters and swaying palms, and try to readjust to normal life, you notice something peculiar.

Despite the calm serenity of being home, your ears feel stuffed up, muffled, and blocked. No matter how many times you yawn or chew gum, your hearing just can’t seem to go back to normal.

If you’ve ever experienced clogged ears after returning from a fabulous getaway, you’re definitely not alone. Many travellers battle ear troubles once their blissful holiday ends and real life sets in.

The clogging and muffled hearing can be annoying, uncomfortable, and concerning if it persists too long.

In this article, we’ll dive into the common causes behind blocked ears after travel and holiday. Whether it’s a plane trip home or environmental factors at your destination, there are clear reasons why your ears might feel “off” post-getaway.

We’ll also provide tips on how to get relief when clogged ears strike after a fabulous holiday. With the proper treatment and a little patience, you can get back to your normal hearing and reminisce about your trip unimpeded.

Man on holiday after cleaning his ears

Causes of Clogged Ears After Travel

When you experience clogged or blocked ears after a fun holiday or trip, there are a few likely culprits behind your misery. Here are some of the most common causes of ear troubles once you return from travel:

  • Pressure changes. One of the most frequent reasons for ear problems after vacations is pressure changes, especially when flying. The altitude changes during flights can cause your Eustachian tubes (which connect your throat to your middle ear) to become blocked or dysfunctional. This traps air in the middle ear and leads to clogging, pain, and muffled hearing once you land.
  • Allergies or irritants. If your amazing holiday was somewhere with a different climate, landscape, or environmental factors, you may have been exposed to new allergies or irritants. Things like pollen, mould, dust, pollution, and pet dander can trigger congestion, swelling, and ear blockages that linger after you get home.
  • Diet and hydration changes. Altering your normal diet, sleep schedule, hydration levels, and other routines while on vacation can also impact ear troubles when you return. Things like eating heavy, salty cruise ship buffets, drinking more alcohol, and changing time zones can all contribute to clogged ears.
  • Swimming. Swimming in oceans, pools, or water parks constantly exposes your ear to moisture. This can push water deep into your ear canal and eustachian tubes, causing lingering blockages, infections, and fluid buildup after your holiday.
  • Ear infections. The foreign bacteria you encounter while travelling can sometimes invade your ear canal and cause a minor infection. If this infection isn’t treated promptly, it can fester and lead to clogged ears, pain, and drainage when you return home.

Relieving Clogged Ears After Holiday

So your ears are still clogged and muffled days after your amazing vacation. Luckily, there are many effective remedies and treatments that can provide relief:

  • Decongestants and antihistamines. Over-the-counter medications like Sudafed, Claritin, or Allegra can help reduce swelling and fluid buildup causing your ear blockages. Just be sure to follow dosage guidelines.
  • Nasal sprays. Saline nasal sprays or medicated sprays like Afrin can temporarily shrink swollen nasal tissues and open up your eustachian tubes. Use medicated sprays sparingly to avoid rebound congestion.
  • Open the eustachian tubes. Try chewing gum, yawning, or swallowing frequently to activate the muscles that open your eustachian tubes naturally. You can also use valsalva maneuvers like pinching your nose shut and blowing gently.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water and hydrating fluids like herbal tea to thin out mucus and prevent dehydration from prolonging your ear troubles.
  • Use a humidifier. Dry air can worsen congestion. Run a cool mist humidifier in your bedroom to moisten and open your nasal passages.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen can relieve associated ear pain and pressure from a clogged eustachian tube.
  • Get antibiotics for an infection. If your clogging is due to a bacterial ear infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotic ear drops or pills to clear it up.

When to See a Doctor

While clogged ears after the holiday will improve on their own for most people, it’s important to seek medical attention if:

  • Symptoms last more than a week after you return from travel. If over-the-counter remedies and home treatments aren’t improving your clogged ears after 7-10 days, see your doctor.
  • You experience severe pain, discharge, or hearing loss. Ear pain that throbs and won’t subside, fluid leaking from the ear, and decreased hearing could indicate an ear infection or other issues needing treatment.
  • The clogging worsens. If your ears become more blocked and muffled despite treatment, or you develop ringing or dizziness, it’s time to see a professional.
  • You have a fever or vision changes. Fever, blurred vision, severe headaches or disorientation along with clogged ears could signify problems like sinus infection or vertigo.
  • You have a history of ear problems or eustachian tube dysfunction. Those prone to ear troubles may need to see an ENT specialist if clogging persists after travel.

Don’t take ongoing ear clogging lightly, as it can progress to more serious problems without proper treatment. Seek medical advice if home remedies aren’t giving you relief within about a week.

Clogged ears after a fun holiday or trip can certainly be an annoying start to your return to normal life. The muffled hearing and stuffed-up feeling seem at odds with the relaxing getaway you just enjoyed. But while ear troubles post-travel are very common, luckily the causes are well-understood – from pressure changes while flying to environmental factors at your destination.

With a little patience and some over-the-counter medications, decongestants, and home remedies, you can usually clear up vacation-related ear clogging within a few days. Drink lots of water, use a humidifier, take antihistamines, and give your eustachian tubes a chance to readjust after your fabulous getaway. The discomfort is temporary as long as you treat it properly.

However, if your symptoms last more than a week or get progressively worse, don’t hesitate to see a doctor for advice. An untreated ear infection or eustachian tube dysfunction can lead to ongoing problems. But in most cases, have faith that with some rest and TLC, your ears will be back to normal before you know it, ready to hear all about your next exciting holiday destination!

About the Author

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Ben Horlock Audiologist

Ben Horlock RHAD MHSAA, is an accomplished audiologist deeply committed to delivering remarkable audiological services.

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