Blocked ears

Always see a doctor if you're concerned about any aspects of your health or wellbeing while pregnant.
Always see a doctor if you're concerned about any aspects of your health or wellbeing while pregnant. 

What is it?

Blocked ears in children are one of the more common reasons for a visit to the GP. In addition to ear infections (covered in other fact sheets in this section) blocked ears can have other non-viral and non-bacterial causes, such as wax or foreign objects.

What are the causes?

The aforementioned wax and foreign objects are two of the main culprits of blocked ears.

Wax is the ear canal’s way of cleaning itself, however sometimes the wax can build up and form a plug, blocking the ear. Children can also cause the blockage by pushing wax back into the ear with a cotton bud.

Young children are also inclined to push other things into their ear. From food and buttons to dirt and insects, the possibilities are only limited by size and imagination.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can vary depending on the reason for the blockage and whether it causes infection, but common symptoms are:

  • Earache
  • A sensation of fullness inside the ear
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Mild deafness
  • Balance issues
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If a foreign body has been pushed into the ear then it might also cause redness and infection, leading to discharge.

What are the treatments?

Your child’s doctor will be able to diagnose the reason for the blocked ear and treatments are simple and usually quick. Depending on the causes, treatment may involve drops to soften the ear wax or use of an ear syringe to squirt warm water into the ear canal and remove the wax plug or foreign body. Alternatively, the doctor might use a suction device or a special hook to remove the object.

If your child’s doctor is concerned that the object may have caused an infection, antibiotics will be prescribed.

You child might also need some pain relief, such as paracetamol, in the short term.

Other resources

Better Health Channel: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Parenting and child health – South Australian government: www.cyh.com