Blocked ears can have many different causes. If your ears are blocked, it’s important to figure out what’s causing the blockage if you want to treat it effectively. A few of the causes of ear blockages need a doctor’s attention, but most can be dealt with at home. Read on to learn the most common causes of blocked ears:

1. The Common Cold

The most common cause of blocked ears by far, the common cold blocks up not only the ears but the sinuses in general. Thankfully, the blockage will usually go away when the cold goes away.

2. Allergies
If you’re stuck with allergies, you’re often stuck with blocked ears as well. Like the common cold, allergies block the ears by filling the sinuses. Unfortunately, these blockages don’t generally go away completely unless you treat the allergies, either with allergy medication or by removing exposure to the allergen.

3. Sinus Infection
Blocked ears are a very common result of a sinus infection. Sinus infections usually originate from some kind of injury to the ear drum which later gets infected. This is why you should never stick anything in your ear (especially Q Tips ) — you could perforate your ear drum and infect it with whatever bacteria was on the object simultaneously. Sinus infections can also develop out of a normal cold or flu.

A sinus infection is very serious and very noticeable. A cold or allergies are both annoying and can each cause a painful headache, but are nothing compared to the excruciating pain and pressure resulting from a sinus infection. They’re also often accompanied by a fever, strange discharges, and in rare cases dizziness or distorted vision (depending on where the infection is most inflamed ). If you have a sinus infection, you need to see a doctor immediately.

4. Impacted Ear Wax
Impacted ear wax takes much longer to develop into an ear blockage than a cold or allergies. It can slowly accumulate into a blockage without the person even noticing until the block is fully there. Impacted ear wax blockages are notable for developing slowly and not going away once they’re there. They’re not tied directly to the sinus system in the way blockages from a cold or allergies are, so you can have this kind of blockage without having any noticeable effects on the nose or throat.

This kind of blockage is often caused by people trying to clean the wax out of their ears with their fingers. Instead of clearing the wax out, all it does is press it down into the ear, impacting it and preventing it from draining naturally.

5. Flying

Flying in an airplane often causes blocked ears due to the air pressure changes. This annoying, but thankfully this kind of blockage goes away the quickest of every kind of block.

6. Swimming
Swimming often causes people to get water in their ears, which causes blocked ears. The important thing in treating this kind of blockage is to get the water out.