Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

You’re on day two. Your right ear is still completely clogged. You haven’t been able to hear a thing on that side 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 improve after a night’s sleep as you were hoping it would. So will your blocked ear clear up soon?

Precisely how long your blockage will last depends, not surprisingly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages subside on their own and rather quickly at that; others could linger and require medical intervention.

As a general rule, however, if your blockage persists for any longer than a week, you may want to get some help.

When Should I Worry About a Blocked Ear?

You will most likely start contemplating the reason for your blockage after around a couple of days. Perhaps you’ll examine your behavior from the past couple of days: for example, did you get water in your ear somehow?

You may also consider your health. Are you suffering from the kind of pain or discomfort (or fever) that may be related to an ear infection? If that’s the case, you might want to schedule an appointment.

Those questions are really just the beginning. There are plenty of possible reasons for a blocked ear:

  • Air pressure variations: If the pressure in the air changes all of a sudden, your eustachian tube can fail to adjust which can temporarily cause blockage.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid accumulate in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can occur when the body’s immune system kicks in – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Permanent hearing loss: A blocked ear and some types of irreversible hearing loss can feel remarkably similar. You should schedule an appointment if your “clogged ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, lumps, and bulges which can even block your ears.
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water stuck in it: The little places inside the ear are surprisingly efficient at capturing water and sweat. (If you tend to sweat profusely, this can definitely end up clogging your ears temporarily).
  • Earwax accumulation: If earwax becomes compacted or is not properly draining it can result in blockages..
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become obstructed by fluid accumulation or inflammation due to an ear infection.

How to Get Your Ears Back to Normal as Fast as Possible

Your ears will probably return to normal after a couple of days if the blockage is caused by air pressure. You might need to wait for your immune system to start working if your blockage is caused by an ear infection (you may need an antibiotic to speed things up). And that could take up to a week or two. You may have to wait even longer than that if you’re suffering from a sinus infection.

Bringing your ears back to normal as rapidly as you can, then, will often involve some patience (though that may seem counterintuitive), and your expectations need to be, well, variable.

Not doing anything to aggravate the situation is the first and most important step. When your ears begin to feel blocked, you might be tempted to take out the old cotton swab and start trying to physically clear things out. All kinds of issues, from ear infections to hearing loss, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be an extremely dangerous strategy. You will probably make the situation worse if you use cotton swabs.

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

So, if your ear remains clogged after two days and you don’t have any really great clue as to what’s causing it, you might be reasonably impatient. In almost all instances, your blockage will clear itself up after a few days. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things persist for more than a week or so, it might be a smart decision to come in for a consultation.

Early indications of hearing loss can also feel like clogged ears. And you shouldn’t neglect hearing loss because, as you’ve probably read in our other posts, it can result in a whole host of other health issues.

Being careful not to worsen the issue will normally permit the body to take care of the situation on its own. But intervention may be necessary when those natural means do not succeed. How long that takes will vary depending on the base cause of your blocked ears.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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