Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

You’re on day two. There’s still complete obstruction in your right ear. The last time you remember hearing anything in that direction was yesterday morning. Your left ear is picking up the slack, naturally, but only being able to hear from one direction is leaving you off-balance. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you were hoping it would. So, how long will your ear remain clogged?

It most likely won’t be a big surprise to discover that the single biggest variable in predicting the duration of your blocked ear is the cause of the blockage. Some blockages recede on their own and rather quickly at that; others might linger and require medical treatment.

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

When Does a Blocked Ear Become a Worry?

If you’re on day two of a clogged ear, you may start thinking about possible causes. Maybe you’ll examine your behavior from the previous couple of days: were you doing anything that might have resulted in water getting trapped in your ear, for instance?

You might also think about your health. Are you suffering from any symptoms of an ear infection? If that’s the case, you may want to schedule an appointment.

Those questions are actually just the beginning. A blocked ear could have numerous possible causes:

  • Water trapped in the eustachian tube or ear canal: The little areas in the ear are surprisingly efficient at trapping sweat and water. (If you often sweat profusely, this can certainly end up blocking your ears temporarily).
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to buildup in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all connected (causing a clog).
  • Air pressure variations: Occasionally, 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.
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, lumps, and bulges which can even block your ears.
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause inflammation and fluid buildup that eventually obstructs your ears.
  • Allergies: Some pollen allergies can trigger the body’s immune system response, which in turn generate fluid and swelling.
  • Earwax Build-up: If earwax becomes compacted or is not properly draining it can cause blockages..
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: A blocked ear and some kinds of irreversible hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. If your “clogged ear” is persisting longer than it should, you need to get it examined.

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

Your ears will probably go back to normal after a couple of days if the blockage is caused by air pressure. You may have to wait for your immune system to start working if your blockage is due to an ear infection (you might need an antibiotic to get faster relief). And that may take as much as a week or two. Sinus infections have been known to last even longer.

Some patience will be needed before your ears return to normal (counterintuitive though it might be), and your expectations need to be, well, variable.

The number one most important task is to not make the situation worse. When you first start to feel like your ears are blocked, it may be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clean them out. All sorts of issues, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be an especially 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 Might be Hearing Loss

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

Early indications of hearing loss can also feel like blocked ears. And you shouldn’t neglect hearing loss because, as you’ve most likely read in our other posts, it can cause a whole range of other health concerns.

Being cautious not to worsen the issue will usually allow the body to clear up the situation on its own. But when that fails, treatment could be necessary. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this could take a varying amount of time.

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