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Plugged ears when running
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JeannieY posted:
Hi Dr. Moser,

This is my first time posting a question on this board, but I do enjoy reading your blogs.

My question is, why do my ears get all plugged up when I'm running? I run 3X per week on the treadmill and my ears tend to get stuffed up like there are water or cotton balls in there. It goes away pretty quickly after I've stopped my run, but since I usually run for 45+ minutes each time, that's almost a whole hour that I can't hear that well.

Appreciate any clues as to why it does that. Thanks.
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Rod_Moser_PA_PhD responded:
Jeannie...you may have Exercise-Induced Eustachian Tube Dysfunction?

Exercise increases blood supply to all parts of the body. Along with this increased proliferation of blood, comes tissue engorgement...this is why your skin becomes red or flushed. When the tissue engorgement is around your eustachian tubes -- those tiny ventilation tubes that run from your middle ear space (the area on the other side of your eardrum) to the back of your throat -- it may cause the tubes to malfunction.

If the eustachian tubes clog, your ears may feel full / stuffy, and your hearing could be a bit muffled, like they need to "pop". If the e-tubes lock in the "open" position (they are normally closed and only open briefly when we swallow), you may hear your own voice or an echo.

As long as this exercise-induced eustachian tube dysfunction resolves after you cool down, there is no need to be concerned. Unfortunately, there may be little that you can do to prevent this from occurring, other than reducing the intensity of your exercise.

This is a relatively common problem with runners and those that exercise intensely. I wish there was a cure out there, but this is really a "situational condition", not a disease.

Thanks for reading my Blogs....tell your friends and please take time and add comments!
 
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JeannieY responded:
Thanks Dr. Moser. That was really helpful to know what I have.
 
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bettaz replied to Rod_Moser_PA_PhD's response:
Hello,

You said, "as long as this resolves after you cool down." Sometimes my clogged ears last for 3 hours or more after I exercise. It also just happens randomly when I haven't been exercising. I do have environmental allergies and take Benadryl and sudafed quite often. Should I follow up with a doctor about this?

Thank You
 
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Rod Moser, PA, PhD replied to bettaz's response:
You can, but ENTs can do very little about intermittent Eustachian tube dysfunction. You can certainly have your allergy meds tweaked a bit...there are much better medications out there than short acting Benedryl or a decongstant/

I am sorry that your ears remained clogged for three hours. That must be annoying. Have you tired taking any of your allergy meds BEFORE you exercise to see if that aborts the symptoms?
 
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healthy7777 replied to Rod Moser, PA, PhD's response:
Hi,
I have had the same problem, I just started running, but it has been 5 days now and my ears are still plugged up. I decompress them once in a while but my ears get clogged almost immediately. Any recommendations? Are decongestants recommended?
Thanks.
 
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stlove replied to Rod_Moser_PA_PhD's response:
I have been exercising for years now and never noticed my ears clogged after a workout until recently. I would understand if my previous exercise was low intensity but I've been running marathons and participating in triathlons for awhile and hadn't noticed this problem. Now since I added weight lifting I notice it. Is this something that can progress?


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