It is the middle ear that causes discomfort because it is an air pocket inside the head that is vulnerable to changes in air pressure.
Normally, each time (or each 2nd or 3rd time) you swallow, your ears make a little click or popping sound.
This occurs because a small bubble of air has entered your middle ear, up from the back of your nose.
It passes through the Eustachian tube, a membrane-lined tube about the size of a pencil lead that connects the back of the nose with the middle ear.
The air in the middle ear is constantly being absorbed by it membranous lining and resupplied through the Eustachian tube.
In this manner, air pressure on both sides of the eardrum stays about equal. If, and when, the air pressure is not equal the ear feels blocked.
The Eustachian tube can be blocked, or obstructed, for a variety of reasons.
When that occurs, the middle ear pressure cannot be equalized.
The air already there is absorbed and a vacuum occurs. sucking the eardrum inward and stretching it.
Such an eardrum cannot vibrate naturally, so sounds are muffled or blocked, and the stretching can be.
If the tube remains blocked, fluid (like blood serum) will seep into the area from the membranes in an attempt to overcome the vacuum.
This is called "fluid in the ear," serous otitis or aero-otitis.
The most common cause for a blocked Eustachian tube is the common cold.
Sinus infections and nasal allergies (hay fever, etc.) are also causes.
A stuffy nose leads to stuffy ears because the swollen membranes block the opening of the Eustachian tube.
To open you ears you can try this:
Step 1: Pinch your nostrils shut.
Step 2: Take a mouthful of air.
Step 3: Using your cheek and throat muscles, force the air into the back of your nose as if you were trying to blow your thumb and fingers off your nostrils.
When you hear a loud pop in your ears, you have succeeded.
When inflating your ears, you should not use force.
You can also try some decongestant tablets to help dry up the fluid.
Decongestant tablets and sprays can be purchased without a prescription.
However, they should be avoided by people with heart disease, high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, thyroid disease, or excessive nervousness.
Such people should consult their physicians before using these medicines.
Pregnant women should likewise consult their physician first.
If your ears fail to open, or if pain persists, you will need to seek the help of a physician who has experience in the care of ear disorders.
He/she may need to release the pressure or fluid with a small incision in the ear drum.