Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been a couple of days. There’s still total blockage in your right ear. You haven’t been able to hear anything in that direction since yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, of course, but only being able to hear from one direction is leaving you feeling off-balance. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So will your blocked ear clear up soon?

Exactly how long your blockage will persist depends, not surprisingly, on what the cause of the blockage is. You might need to seek out medical attention if your blockage isn’t the type that clears itself up quickly.

You shouldn’t allow your blockage to linger for more than one week, as a rule of thumb, without having it examined.

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Concern?

If you’re on day two of a clogged ear, you might begin to think about potential causes. Perhaps you’ll think about your behavior from the previous couple of days: were you doing anything that might have led to water getting trapped in your ear, for instance?

You might also think about your health. Are you suffering from any symptoms of an ear infection? You might want to schedule an appointment if that’s the case.

This line of questioning is merely a starting point. A clogged ear could have numerous potential causes:

  • Water stuck in the ear canal or eustachian tube: The tiny places inside the ear are surprisingly efficient at trapping water and sweat. (Short-term blockage can certainly develop if you sweat heavily).
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: Some forms of hearing loss feel a lot like a clogged ear. You need to make an appointment if your “blocked ear” persists longer than it should.
  • Accumulation of earwax: If earwax becomes compressed or is not thoroughly draining it can result in blockages..
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, bulges, and lumps which can even block your ears.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all connected, a sinus infection can create excess fluids to become stuck in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become obstructed by fluid accumulation or inflammation due to an ear infection.
  • Variations in air pressure: If the pressure in the air changes abruptly, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can cause temporary blockage.
  • Allergies: Some pollen allergies can trigger the body’s immune system response, which in turn cause fluid and swelling.

The Quickest Way to Get Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will most likely return to normal after a couple of days if air pressure is causing your blockage. You may have to wait for your immune system to kick in if your blockage is caused by an ear infection (you might need an antibiotic to speed things up). This could take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections sometimes stick around even longer.

Some patience will be needed before your ears get back to normal (though that might feel counterintuitive), and your expectations should be, well, adjustable.

Not doing anything to exacerbate the situation is your most important first step. When your ears start to feel blocked, you might be tempted to pull out the old cotton swab and start trying to manually clear things out. This can be an especially hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been the cause of all sorts of problems and complications, from infection to loss of hearing). You will probably worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

If Your Ear is Still Blocked After a Week…it May be Hearing Loss

So, if your ear is still clogged after two days and you don’t have any really good clue as to what’s causing it, you might be reasonably impatient. A few days is usually enough time for your body to get rid of any blockage. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things last for more than a week or so, it may be a wise choice to come see us.

Early indications of hearing loss can also feel like blocked ears. And you shouldn’t ignore hearing loss because, as you’ve probably read in our other posts, it can result in a whole range of other health concerns.

Being careful not to worsen the issue will usually allow the body to take care of the matter on its own. But intervention could be required when those natural means do not succeed. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the underlying cause of your clogged ears.

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