Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been a couple of days. There’s still complete obstruction in your right ear. The last time you were able to hear anything in that direction was yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear works overtime to compensate. You thought it might up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not happening. So will your clogged ear clear up soon?

Exactly how long your blockage will last depends, not unexpectedly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages go away by themselves and fairly quickly at that; others may persist and call for medical intervention.

You shouldn’t let your blockage to linger for longer than a week, as a rule of thumb, without having it checked.

When Does a Blocked Ear Become a Worry?

If you’re on the second day of a clogged ear, you might begin to think about possible causes. Perhaps you’ll think about your activities from the past two or three days: were you involved in anything that might have led to water getting trapped in your ear, for example?

You may also consider your health. Do have any symptoms of an ear infection? You may want to schedule an appointment if that’s the situation.

Those questions are actually just the beginning. A blocked ear could have multiple potential causes:

  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can manifest when the body’s immune system kicks in – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become blocked by fluid accumulation or inflammation due to an ear infection.
  • Permanent loss of hearing: Some forms of hearing loss feel a lot like a clogged ear. If your “blocked ear” is lasting longer than it should, you need to get it checked out.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid buildup in your ears because your ears, nose and throat are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • Variations in air pressure: Once in a while, your Eustachian tube can fail to adjust properly to changes in air pressure, creating the feeling of a temporary blockage in one or both ears.
  • Water trapped in the eustachian tube or ear canal: The tiny places inside the ear are alarmingly good at trapping sweat and water. (Temporary blockage can definitely develop if you sweat profusely).
  • Growths: Certain kinds of growths, bulges, and lumps can result in a blocked feeling in your ears (and even obstruct your hearing).
  • Earwax Build-up: If earwax becomes compacted or is not properly draining it can cause blockages..

How to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal as Quickly as You Can

So, if air pressure is the culprit, your ears will normally get back to normal in a day or two. You may have to wait for your immune system to kick in if your blockage is due to an ear infection (you may need an antibiotic to get faster relief). And that may take as much as a week or two. Sinus infections sometimes last even longer.

Bringing your ears back to normal as fast as you can, then, will usually involve some patience (though that might seem counterintuitive), and you need to be able to adjust your expectations according to your actual situation.

Your first and most important task is to not cause the situation to get worse. When you first start to feel like your ears are blocked, it might be tempting to try and use cotton swabs to clean them out. This can be a particularly hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been known to cause all sorts of issues and difficulties, from infection to hearing loss). If you use a cotton swab, you’re probably going to make things worse.

If Your Ear is Still clogged After a Week…it Might be Hearing Loss

So you could be getting a little antsy if a couple of days pass and you still have no clue what could be the cause of your blockage. In nearly all cases, your blockage will take care of itself after a few days. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things persist for more than a week or so, it may be a wise decision to come see us.

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

Being careful not to worsen the problem will normally allow the body to take care of the situation on its own. But when that fails, treatment could be necessary. How long that takes will vary depending on the base cause of your clogged ears.

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