Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been a couple of days. Your right ear is still totally clogged. The last time you were able to hear anything in that direction was yesterday morning. Your left ear is picking up the slack, naturally, but only being able to hear from a single direction leaves you feeling off-balance. You were hoping it would have cleared up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not the case. So will your blocked ear clear up soon?

It probably won’t be a big surprise to find out that the number one factor in projecting the duration of your clogged ear is the cause of the blockage. You might need to get medical attention if your blockage isn’t the type that clears itself up quickly.

As a general rule, though, if your blockage persists for any longer than a week, you might want to seek out some help.

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Worry?

If you’re on day two of a blocked ear, you may start thinking about possible causes. Maybe you’ll examine your activities from the previous two or three days: for example, did you get water in your ear somehow?

What about the condition of your health? Are you experiencing the sort of pain or discomfort (or fever) that could be linked to an ear infection? You may want to schedule an appointment if that’s the case.

This line of questioning is merely a starting point. There are plenty of potential reasons for a blocked ear:

  • Earwax accumulation: If earwax gets compacted or is not thoroughly draining it can cause blockages..
  • Growths: Some types of growths, lumps, and bulges can cause a clogged feeling in your ears (and even impact your hearing).
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can occur when the body’s immune system goes to work – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Air pressure changes: On occasion, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to variations in air pressure, creating the feeling of a temporary blockage in one or both ears.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all connected, a sinus infection can cause excess fluids to become stuck in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Permanent loss of hearing: Some kinds of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. You should schedule an appointment if your “clogged ear” persists longer than it should.
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water trapped in it: The tiny places inside the ear are surprisingly good at trapping sweat and water. (Short-term blockage can certainly develop if you sweat heavily).
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can bring about inflammation and fluid buildup that ultimately blocks your ears.

The Fastest Way to Get Your Ears Back to Normal

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will usually go back to normal within a day or two. If an ear infection is behind your clogged ears, you might have to wait until your body gets rid of the virus or bacteria at work (you may need an antibiotic to speed things up). This may take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections have been known to last even longer.

Getting your ears back to normal as quickly as possible, then, will normally involve some patience (counterintuitive though it may be), and you need to be able to change your expectations according to your actual circumstances.

Not doing anything to exacerbate the situation is your most important first step. When you first begin to feel like your ears are blocked, it may be tempting to try and use cotton swabs to clear them out. All sorts of issues, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can be caused by cotton swabs so this can be a particularly dangerous strategy. You will most likely make the situation worse if you use cotton swabs.

It’s Possible That Your “Blockage” is Hearing Loss

So you might be getting a bit antsy if a couple of days go by and you still have no clue what could be causing your blockage. A few days is usually enough time for your body to eliminate any blockage. But it might be, as a general rule of thumb, a prudent decision to come see us if your blockage persists for more than a week.

That feeling of blocked ears can also be a sign of hearing loss. And as you most likely know from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can cause other health issues, particularly over time.

Doing no additional damage first will give your body an opportunity to mend and clear that blockage away naturally. But intervention might be necessary when those natural means fail. How long that takes will vary depending on the underlying cause of your blocked ears.

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