Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

You’re on day two. Your right ear is still totally blocked. 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 were hoping it would have cleared up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not the case. So, how long will your ear remain clogged?

It probably won’t be a huge surprise to find out that the single biggest variable in predicting the duration of your blocked ear will be the cause of the blockage. Some blockages subside on their own and rather quickly at that; others might persist and call for medical treatment.

As a rule of thumb, though, if your blockage lasts much longer than one week, you might want to get some help.

When Does a Blocked Ear Become a Worry?

If you’re on day two of a blocked ear, you may start thinking about potential causes. Maybe you’ll examine your behavior from the last two or three days: were you doing anything that could have led to water getting stuck in your ear, for instance?

What about the condition of your health? Are you experiencing the sort of discomfort and pain (or fever) that might be related to an ear infection? If that’s the scenario, you might want to make an appointment.

Those questions are actually just the beginning. A clogged ear could have multiple possible causes:

  • Water stuck in the eustachian tube or ear canal: Sweat and water can become trapped in the little areas of your ear with surprising ease. (If you tend to sweat profusely, this can definitely end up temporarily clogging your ears).
  • Permanent loss of hearing: Some types of hearing loss feel a lot like a clogged ear. If your “clogged ear” is persisting longer than it should, you need to get it examined.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all interconnected, a sinus infection can create excess fluids to become lodged in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Earwax accumulation: If earwax gets compressed or is not thoroughly draining it can cause blockages..
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause fluid buildup and inflammation that ultimately obstructs your ears.
  • Air pressure changes: If the pressure in the air changes suddenly, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can cause temporary blockage.
  • Allergies: Certain pollen allergies can trigger the body’s immune system reaction, which in turn produces swelling and fluid.
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, bulges, and lumps which can even obstruct your ears.

The Quickest Way to Get Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will most likely return to normal after a couple of days if the blockage is caused by air pressure. If an ear infection is to blame for your clogged ears, you might have to wait until your body gets rid of the virus or bacteria at work (you might need an antibiotic to get faster relief). This may take up to a couple of weeks. You may have to wait even longer than that if you have a sinus infection.

A bit of patience will be necessary before your ears return to normal (counterintuitive though it might be), and your expectations need to be, well, adjustable.

The number one most important job is to not cause the situation to get worse. When you first begin to feel like your ears are plugged, it might be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clear them out. This can be a very dangerous strategy (cotton swabs have been the cause of all kinds of issues and complications, from infection to loss of hearing). You will most likely make the situation worse if you use cotton swabs.

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

So you could be getting a little antsy if a couple of days pass and you still have no clue what might be causing your blockage. In almost all cases, your blockage will take care of itself after a few days. But it may be, as a general rule of thumb, a good decision to come see us if your blockage lasts for more than a week.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like clogged ears. And as you most likely know from our other posts, untreated hearing loss can lead to other health issues, especially over time.

Being cautious not to worsen the issue will normally permit the body to clear up the situation on its own. But when that fails, intervention may be necessary. How long that takes will vary depending on the root cause of your blocked ears.

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