Our Hearing Aid Blog

Popping Ears: What You Need to Know and How to Find Relief

by Hear Clear on Dec 13, 2023

an old man getting his ear examined

If you’ve ever been on a plane - or even had a simple cold - you’ll likely have already experienced 'popping' in your ear. And while ear popping is a common occurrence and most likely a benign experience, it can occasionally indicate an underlying health issue, so it’s important to understand why it’s happening.

In the following article, we’re going to take a look at some common causes of ear popping, effective methods to alleviate the sensation, and when to consult a professional. So let’s dive in!

Why Do Ears Pop?

Ears popping typically occurs as a response to pressure changes: inside our ears, specifically in the Eustachian tubes, pressure is constantly regulated. This means that when external pressures fluctuate rapidly - such as during take-off in an aeroplane or ascending a tall building - our ears adjust by 'popping'. This popping is essentially the Eustachian tube opening to equalise the pressure between the outside environment and the middle ear, and when it occurs due to environmental changes, this process is natural and usually harmless. However, when it becomes frequent or is accompanied by discomfort, it may signal an underlying issue.

Causes of Persistent Ear Popping

If you find your ears constantly popping or experience a sensation like crackling or clicking in the ear, it's always worth investigating further. Persistent ear popping can be caused by various factors, ranging from minor to more serious conditions, with some common causes include:

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

This occurs when the Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the back of the nose, don't open and close properly. Dysfunction can end up leading to feelings of fullness, popping, or clicking in the ear. If you also experience hearing difficulties alongside popping, you may be able to purchase hearing aids that can regulate the problem and put an end to the popping.

Sinus Infections or Allergies

If you’re an allergy sufferer, inflammation from sinus infections or allergies can block the Eustachian tubes, leading to increased ear popping and fullness.

Sudden Altitude Changes

As we mentioned earlier, sudden changes in altitude - such as flying - can also cause your ears to pop, as your body reacts to the changes in air pressure.

Excessive Earwax

Sometimes, a simple buildup of earwax can cause a blockage in the ear canal, leading to a popping sensation.


Problems in the jaw - also known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) - can also cause ear popping; this occurs because the tense TMJ muscle causes spasms and hyperactivity in the muscles that control the eustachian tube. TMJ disorders are usually quite easy to diagnose, as the ear popping will usually be accompanied by jaw pain, jaw clicking, toothache, difficulty opening the mouth, as well as other referred pain in the head and neck.

Finding Relief for Popping Ears

a sideview picture of an ear

So, when it comes to finding relief for ears popping, everything largely depends on the underlying cause. However, there are several general methods that can provide immediate and effective relief no matter the reason for the popping:

  • Swallowing and Yawning: Swallowing and yawning can help open the Eustachian tubes, and in turn equalise the pressure in the middle ear. Chewing gum or sucking on hard sweets can also be effective, especially during take-off and landing on flights.
  • The Valsalva Maneuver: This technique involves gently blowing with your nose pinched and mouth closed. It can be uncomfortable, but it's a common and trusted method to equalise ear pressure.
  • Nasal Decongestants: If your ear popping is due to congestion from a cold or allergies, over-the-counter decongestants can reduce inflammation and ease the pressure temporarily.
  • Steam Inhalation: Another cold remedy, inhaling steam from a hot shower or a bowl of hot water can help clear the Eustachian tubes, and reduce the popping sensation and any accompanying sensations of fullness.

When to Seek Professional Help

While popping ears is often harmless, there are situations where we’d recommend seeking out professional medical advice. If you find yourself constantly asking, "Why do my ears keep popping?" and experiencing symptoms such as severe pain, hearing loss, or dizziness, you should definitely book an appointment with your doctor or an ear specialist.

Additionally, if home remedies don't bring relief or if you notice a discharge from the ear, these could be signs of an ear infection or other serious conditions requiring medical attention. In some cases, persistent ear popping may also warrant a hearing assessment.

How to Prevent Future Ear Popping

  • Maintain Good Nasal Hygiene: Regular nasal washing, especially during allergy seasons or colds, can help keep your Eustachian tubes clear.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids can thin out any excess mucus during a cold or an allergy flareup, making it easier for you to to drain while also reducing the chances of blockages in your ears.
  • Regular Ear Cleaning: Ensure your ears are cleaned properly, but avoid over-cleaning or using cotton buds inside the ear canal, as this can push wax deeper and cause blockages.
  • Use Ear Protection: In environments with high noise levels or pressure changes, using ear protection can help maintain ear health.

The Role of Hearing Aids in Managing Ear Popping

As we mentioned already, some cases of persistent ear popping can be linked to hearing issues, and this is where hearing aids can come in useful. Hearing aids not only improve hearing but can also alleviate the pressure feeling in the ears by enhancing sound reception and reducing the strain on the Eustachian tubes. If you experience ear popping and also notice changes in your hearing, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, while ear popping is a common and usually harmless phenomenon, persistent or painful popping should never be ignored. And while home remedies can be tempting - especially for persistent symptoms - addressing any underlying issues with your GP can significantly improve your symptoms by getting to the root cause of the problem.