Why Do My Ears Get Clogged When I Work Out?

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Written By Kristen
Kristen has been in the fitness industry for over 20 years. She has certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine and is a NASM - Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). Kristen provides provide a variety of personal training services, including in-home training, one on one personal training, small group training as well as online. Kristen's writing has been featured in the likes of Shape and Boston Magazine.

You are on a roll at the gym, getting a great workout in, building up a real sweat, burning calories, and hopefully losing weight… when all of a sudden, your ears are clogged! Badly! How uncomfortable! Surely, you want to know why?

When you work out, a common sensation that many people experience is their ears getting clogged, which causes them not to be able to hear as clearly. The reason for this is the strain exercise can put on the body and mind. Grinding your teeth, the strain of lifting weights, and music that is too loud can all be possible causes of that clogged feeling in your ears.

Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why your ears get clogged during working out and explore what you can potentially do about it. 

woman holding ears doing sit ups

How can you tell if your ears are clogged?

Clogged ears feel like something is full inside your ear. You may experience pressure in your ears or even dizziness and pain. When your ears are plugged, it feels like everything you hear is dulled, or muted a bit. 

Here are some common symptoms of a clogged ear:

  • Muffled hearing
  • Dizziness
  • Pain within the ear
  • Itchiness
  • Ringing in the ear
  • Discharge from the ear
  • Cough

Now that you can identify the sensation, what is the connection between your ears being clogged and your workout? Studies show that the workout itself is not the issue. So don’t stop exercising!

Common causes of clogged ears while working out

Although there are many speculations as to what causes this uncomfortable feeling, here are the top reasons why you may be experiencing clogged ears while you work out:

  • Strain from lifting weights
  • Grinding teeth
  • Music too loud

Strain from lifting weights

When you work out, it can be strenuous on your body, especially when you lift weights. Whether you feel it or not, this strain causes pressure to build up in your brain. The ears are connected to the brain and thus pressure builds up behind the ears making them feel clogged.

Exercising also causes more blood flow to the eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the throat. The eustachian tubes are responsible for keeping normal air pressure flowing through your ears. If there is not enough oxygen getting through the eustachian tubes, the ear is likely to become clogged, resulting in the discomfort you feel when working out.

This is especially true if you’re fighting a cold or have clogged sinuses from something like allergies. The clogging of your sinus leads to increased pressure, which is further amplified by the increased blood and airflow in the area. That can lead to headaches, dizziness, and clogged ears. We recommend ay workouts be on the lighter side if you’re suffering from clogged sinuses – you can do weights, but avoid heavy compound lifts (such as deadlifts) as they put the most pressure on your nervous system which will increase blood and airflow.

Grinding Teeth

It is not unusual to find yourself grinding your teeth during a particularly difficult exercise. Perhaps you do not even notice that you are doing it. Grinding your teeth can actually cause your ears to clog up.

This is because the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is in a location right in front of the ear, and the part of your jaw that is right beneath the ear. This joint is connected to your ears through nerves, muscles, and ligaments. When you grind your teeth, it moves this joint around, which causes the ear wax to come out. This excretion of ear wax is what makes your ears clogged.

Loud music

Who does not like a good playlist to get pumped up for exercising? Music is a great way to make working out fun! I’m sure you have your AirPods or your headphones and your go-to songs ready for the gym.

However, if your music is too loud, it can cause noise-induced hearing loss. One of the symptoms can be clogged ears. Hearing loud noises for a long period of time can destroy cells and nerves in your ear, which in turn destroys your hearing. The higher decibels can manage to clog your ears and impact your hearing.

The Best Ways to Get Rid of Clogged Ears While Working Out

Now that you know how your ears are getting clogged, surely you want to do something to get rid of this obnoxious and sometimes painful sensation that is really starting to put a damper on your workout. Working out is your happy place and to preserve this happiness, here are some things you can do to unclog your ears.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking water can help open possibly clogged eustachian tubes and unclog your ears in turn. Also, taking a break to drink water will reduce strain on your brain and in turn reduce the pressure that could be building up behind your ears.

Yawn

This might sound crazy, but yawning can actually instantly unclog your ears. Sometimes all you have to do is open your mouth really wide and inhale air, and your ears will POP! Yawning will balance the pressure in your ears.

Chew Gum

When you swallow, this increases saliva, which can in turn open up the eustachian tubes and create a better flow within the tubes to the ears. We have already learned that when the eustachian tubes are clogged, so are the ears.

It may be strange to chew gum while working out, but if you are having problems with your ears getting clogged during your exercise, this may be a viable solution for you. Just be careful not to swallow or choke on the gum!

Summary

Clogged ears are a nuisance to anyone, but especially when you are trying to focus on a workout. Since you now know the causes of this sensation and how to get rid of it, you can do your workout stress-free and without any discomfort.

Happy exercising!

References

  1. https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ear-infection/why-does-ear-hurt
  2. https://www.entofga.com/can-exercise-harm-your-hearing/
  3. https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52610-Could-your-exercise-program-be-causing-hearing-loss

Photo of author

Written By

Kristen

Kristen has been in the fitness industry for over 20 years. She has certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine and is a NASM - Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). Kristen provides provide a variety of personal training services, including in-home training, one on one personal training, small group training as well as online. Kristen's writing has been featured in the likes of Shape and Boston Magazine.

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