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Ears/Sinus/Head Clogging Issue… February 13, 2007

Posted by askatricoach in Cycling, Injury, Running, Swim.

Q: The first time I experienced my ears/sinus/head clogging, was not after a swim, but after a training run. I was affected during a sprint triathlon after the bike, but during the run. Of course I couldn’t concentrate on the run as I was trying to figure out what was going on. The feeling I get is similar to your ears not popping on a flight, but to where you can hear everything (i.e. breathing in your head, every sniffle, Darth Vader sound). I have continued to have this more during training, even weight training, than races. I have learned to ignore it but, I am trying to find out what may cause this and what I may be able to do to prevent it?

A: Coach Patrick: Wow, this is a tough one. First and foremost, I have to remind all of our readers that I am not a doctor, I don’t even play one on TV. I think your first course of action should be to go and see an ear, nose and throat specialist (also called an ENT) to make sure that what is happening to you isn’t something serious.

I have two main concerns. First that it’s your hearing…not only is losing some hearing a big issue, but there is also the fact that there could be something going on with your inner ear. This could potentially impact your balance…and if you should get dizzy, that could have a disastrous effect on your health (crashing your bike, dropping a weight, etc.). My second concern is that the hearing issue is appearing in multiple scenarios…it is apparently related to exertion, as it occurs whether you are lifting weights or running.

My first thought was that it might be allergies, but the fact that it happens indoors and out kind of rules that out. A second potential cause could be that you are in the small minority of people do produce unusually large amounts of earwax. If your ear canal keeps getting clogged, you may need to see your doctor occasionally to have it removed. However, you didn’t mention how soon after exercise the symptoms subside…and if you have any issues with ear wax.

Sorry I couldn’t more helpful…I’d seriously suggest you ask your primary care physician to check out your inner ear…or for a referral to an ENT.  Best of luck and please keep us posted on the outcome!



1. xan - April 17, 2007

I get this, too, and haven’t had any answers about it. When I exercise or exert myself, often I get this clogging in one or both ears. Sometimes I can pop it for a moment by leaning over and shaking my head a bit, but it comes back until after I’ve stopped excercising/exerting for awhile.
I asked an ear/nose/throat doc about it once, and he pretty much dismissed it after cleaning my ears. I also have some tinnitus, but no hearing loss at last check.
I’ve been doing some reading just today online and will be doing some more. It’s bothersome!

2. Mark - May 28, 2007

I have the same problem. It does not effect performance but it is quite annoying. I find it hard to talk because I can not hear that well. After 3 or 4 hours, it subsides considerably. Part of why I race is the companionship and not being able to converse well afterwards is annoying. This only occurs in long distance races (marathon to 50K).

3. susan pardy - August 14, 2007

Hi my my name is susan and I was just wondering if it is possible that you get sinus in your ears,,,, I have alot of drumming in my ears and then my jaw line is very sore … I know that sinus is in your head but just wondering if you could just get it in your ears.

4. David Bogle - September 4, 2007

OK, another person here who has the same issue. It only happens to me if I am pushing real hard for a real long time. Usually after 4 to 10 hours of hard biking or running. Seems to be worse when I feel like I am over heated. Would love to figure this one out.

5. Jodi-Ann Barnett - September 25, 2007

I ave been experiencing clogging of the ears for over four years and now my ENT wants me to remove my tonsils. Do you suggest that I remove my tonsils to stop the clogging of my ears or what remedy can I use? Thanks in advance.


6. Lizzy - October 4, 2007

OK, we must be onto something because I get this too. I get it after I play tennis, sometimes when playing volleyball. It’s definately related to exertion, and it is quite annoying. It happens to me in both ears- and the feeling is more like a clogging/pressure like you’d get when you’re changing altitudes.

It’s interesting that there isn’t any information on this phenomena in any medical website. I’ve looked and if anyone has seen anything please post here so I can read up on it. It’s quite annoying and its uncomfortable.

7. Rachel - December 27, 2007

Yes I have been experiencing this too. While working out, my left ear becomes clogged and it is so annoying! It’s odd because I have always been athletic and always work out, but the last few times I’ve worked out, my ear becomes clogged.

8. Emily - January 31, 2008

I just found this link on another website:


I am so relieved! I’m not alone! I’ve been having this problem since high school every time I exercise, always in my left ear, and everyone’s always told me there’s nothing wrong and I’m completely nuts.

9. Drexel - February 21, 2008

I literally just got home from a pretty intense run at the end of which my ears were doing the same thing. I found this page in my attempts to find out what was going on! 🙂

10. Kelly - March 20, 2008

Ah I have it tooo!!!! Right now in fact, I just played tennis for 2 hours…

11. April Owen - April 6, 2008

Here’s another one. I have the same symptoms and I am looking for answers. I train for marathons year-round and after a long-run and sometimes not-so -long my ears seem “stopped up.” I have a hard time carrying on conversations because of the muffled sound (like I’m in a barrell.) It subsides 4-6 hours later. I tried chewing gum yesterday and it seemed to help. I sure would like to know what is going on. Oddly enough it seems worse when I don’t wear headphones. Someone mentioned wind playing a role.

12. gavin - May 3, 2008

I get the same fullness after working out. I lift for an hour and then yawn and try to clear my ears for the next four! I’m going to an emt in two weeks and ill let you all know what the deal is.

13. anthony - May 29, 2008

this happens every time i go running. it’s not painful, but it is extremely annoying. if i bend over so my head is upside-down, it goes away. but as soon as i stand up and run a few more steps it comes back. sometimes it’s one ear, sometimes both. i’ve made sure to clean my ears before i go in the hopes that it was just wax, but it doesn’t help. it only happens when i’m really out of breath and hot. i know i have a small lung capacity and somewhat low blood pressure, so maybe that causes it?

14. keff - June 9, 2008

omg!!! i don’t get it
i have this same problem…asked my personal trainer about it and she said she never heard of it. i didn’t realize so many other people had this problem too…i get headaches accompanied with it and my throat feels tight after i exercise….it does it the worse when i run, but you are right, i can’t find anything out about it.

15. Colleen - July 11, 2008

I also get this when ever my heartrate goes up! Its super annoying and no one has an answer. I am healthy and it has happened since I ran track in high school. It has happened in my first and second pregnancy as well. I am now 28 and it still continues with an increased heartrate!
I wish someone had an answer!!!

16. Clark - August 2, 2008

It is comforting to know that so many others get this problem, I think we need to start a support group:) I get this only after lifting weights for an extended period. I can run all day and nothing but if I lift hard my ears clog up until I stop. It happens when I swallow water or inhale deeply. I have heard this could be blood pressure related, but it seems to me that it would be some sort of congestion. Anyone please help!!!

17. Mel - August 30, 2008

I have been told this has to do with exceeding your target heart rate and by doing so, your heart starts to shut down blood flow to various parts of non-vital areas. I have heard marathon runners sometimes get it so bad they have to have parts of their colon removed due to the blood flow being shut down for too long. My husband has been having this while doing high exertion activities and we have been looking into it. He has a heart condition, so this is probably his problem. However with most people, the remedy is to buy a heart monitor and slowly work on getting your target heart rate higher to be able to withstand vigorous activity.

18. Amy - September 15, 2008

I have this problem too. Especially after I run or do strenuous exercise. It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one that experiences this. Please let me know asap if you find out the cause for this, or how to stop it!! Thanks

19. devin - September 15, 2008

Wow i was thinking it was just be because of ear wax or something so i have just ignored it for a few years but it keeps comming back year after year and it is really bothersome… i play soccer so like every time i run this happens…

20. Eric - September 19, 2008

i stumbled upon this blog trying to solve the same annoying problem, i’m glad i’m not the only one with this problem but still it’d be nice to have a solution

21. Pearl Williams - November 6, 2008

I have this drumming in my ears only when i’m reading. The doctor said my glasses might need upgrading so i went ahead and did that but that hasn’t changed, I’ve just gone back to college and so i’m doing a lot of reading and cannot concentrate. has any one gone any ideas of what might be causing this..

22. Lauren - December 8, 2008

I thought I was the only person this happened to. It doesn’t t. No answers here but I’m glad I’m not alone!

23. Jeff - January 22, 2009

I have had this problem since jr high that I can remember. I remember trying out for a semi-pro football team and the coach was talking to me and I remember just shaking my head acting like I understood. I cant believe know one has this problem that has the answer for it.

24. Eileen - March 23, 2009

I have had the same problem with feeling like my ears are clogged up from exercise since I was a runner in high school – about 16 years now. When I am in better shape, it is less likely to happen, but can still occur with an intense work out. I try to be sure I’m hydrated and have eaten enough calories because I think lack of either contributes. I also notice it particularly on weekends when I’m likely to have a late brunch – more evidence that waiting too long between meals, dehydration, or possibly a drop in blood sugar are the culprits. It’s hard to combat once it happens and is very annoying. Sorry to hear so many people suffer from it, but relieved I am not the only one.

25. Chris - March 25, 2009

I have been doing thsi regular after playing basketball or running track the last couple of years.I am in my 30s. Has anyone got any medical advice on this yet >?

26. Juana - April 25, 2009

Recently I increased my workouts by duration and intensity. Although
I have worked out most of my life, only now is when I experienced
what most here are talking about. My left ear feels clogged and when
I moved my head from side to side I could hear a clanking noise, as if a piece of bone is loose right on the top part of outer ear. It is a very
strange feeling and very uncomfortable. I actually just noticed about
a week ago. I have not seen a Doctor yet but plan to very soon if it
doesn’t get better. I was also searching for causes of my symptoms
when I saw this page. I am planning to make a copy of it to show my
Doctor. Thank you all and Good Luck!

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