Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been a couple of days. There’s still total blockage in your right ear. The last time you were able to hear anything in that direction was yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, of course, but only hearing from one direction is leaving you off-balance. You thought it might up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not the case. So will your clogged ear clear up soon?

It probably won’t be a huge shock to find out that the single biggest variable in projecting the duration of your clogged ear is the cause of the blockage. You may need to get medical attention if your blockage isn’t the kind that clears itself up quickly.

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

When Should I Worry About a Blocked Ear?

You will most likely start contemplating the reason for your blockage after about two days. Maybe you’ll think about your behavior from the past two or three days: for example, did you somehow get water in your ear?

You might also examine your health. Are you experiencing the kind of pain or discomfort (or fever) that may be linked to an ear infection? If that’s the scenario, you may want to schedule an appointment.

Those questions are really just the beginning. A blocked ear could have multiple possible causes:

  • Air pressure changes: Once in a while, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to variations in air pressure, creating the feeling of a temporary blockage in your ear or ears.
  • Accumulation of earwax: If earwax becomes compacted or is not thoroughly draining it can cause blockages..
  • Water trapped in the ear canal or eustachian tube: Sweat and water can become trapped in the tiny areas of your ear with surprising ease. (Temporary blockage can definitely occur if you sweat profusely).
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all connected, a sinus infection can produce excess fluids to become stuck in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Growths: Certain kinds of growths, bulges, and lumps can result in a blocked feeling in your ears (and even obstruct your hearing).
  • Permanent loss of hearing: Some forms of hearing loss feel a lot like a clogged ear. If your “blocked ear” is persisting longer than it should, you need to get it examined.
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can manifest when the body’s immune system goes to work – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become clogged by fluid buildup or inflammation due to an ear infection.

The Quickest Way to Get Your Ears Back to Normal

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will normally return to normal in a day or two. You might need to wait for your immune system to kick in if your blockage is caused by an ear infection (you may need an antibiotic to speed things up). This may take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections sometimes stick around even longer.

A bit of patience will be required before your ears return to normal (though that might feel counterintuitive), and your expectations need to be, well, variable.

Your first and most important task is to not cause the situation to get worse. When your ears start to feel blocked, you might be inclined to pull out the old cotton swab and attempt to manually clear things out. All kinds of problems, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be a particularly dangerous approach. If you use a cotton swab, you’re probably going to make the situation worse.

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

So you might be getting a bit antsy if a couple of days go by and you still have no idea what could be causing your blockage. In nearly all instances, your blockage will take care of itself after a few days. But it might be, as a general rule of thumb, a prudent idea to come see us if your blockage persists for more than a week.

That sensation of feeling like your ears are clogged can also be an indication of hearing loss. And you shouldn’t neglect hearing loss because, as you’ve probably read in our other posts, it can lead to a whole host of other health issues.

Doing no further harm first will allow your body an opportunity to mend and clear that blockage away naturally. But when that fails, treatment could be required. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this may take a varying amount of time.

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