Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been two days. Your right ear is still totally blocked. You haven’t been able to hear a thing on that side since yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, naturally, but only hearing from one direction is leaving you off-balance. 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 blocked?

It most likely won’t be a big surprise to learn that the number one variable in predicting the duration of your clogged ear is the cause of the obstruction. You might need to get medical attention if your blockage is not the kind that clears itself up quickly.

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

When Should I Worry About a Clogged Ear?

You will probably begin to think about the cause of your blockage after about a couple of days. Maybe you’ll examine your activities from the previous couple of 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 suffering from the kind of discomfort and pain (or fever) that might be associated with an ear infection? You might want to make an appointment if that’s the case.

Those questions are truly just the beginning. There are plenty of potential causes for a blocked ear:

  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all interconnected, a sinus infection can produce excess fluids to become lodged in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause inflammation and fluid buildup that ultimately blocks your ears.
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can develop when the body’s immune system goes to work – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Changes in air pressure: If the pressure in the air changes abruptly, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can temporarily cause blockage.
  • Build-up of earwax: Earwax can lead to blockages if it’s not thoroughly draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Growths: Certain kinds of growths, bulges, and lumps can cause a blocked feeling in your ears (and even obstruct your hearing).
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: Some forms of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. You should schedule an appointment if your “blocked ear” persists longer than it should.
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water stuck in it: Water and sweat can get trapped in the little areas of your ear with alarming ease. (Short-term blockage can certainly develop if you sweat heavily).

The Fastest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will normally return to normal within a day or two. You might have to wait for your immune system to kick in if your blockage is caused by an ear infection (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can be very helpful). This could take up to a couple of weeks. 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 usually involve a bit of patience (though that may seem counterintuitive), and you need to be able to adjust your expectations based on your actual circumstances.

Not doing anything to aggravate the situation is the first and most important step. When your ears start to feel blocked, you might be tempted to pull out the old cotton swab and attempt to physically clean things out. All sorts of problems, from ear infections to hearing loss, can be caused by cotton swabs so this can be a particularly dangerous strategy. You will probably worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

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

So, if your ear is still clogged on day two and you don’t have any really great ideas as to what’s causing it, you may be reasonably impatient. 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 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, untreated hearing loss can cause other health issues, especially over time.

Doing no further harm first will allow your body a chance to heal and clear that blockage away naturally. But intervention might be required when those natural means fail. How long that takes will vary depending on the underlying 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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