Hearing Health Blog

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been two days. There’s still complete obstruction in your right ear. The last time you remember hearing anything on that side was yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear does double duty to compensate. It didn’t improve after a night’s sleep as you were hoping it would. So, how long will your ear remain blocked?

Exactly how long your blockage will persist depends, not unexpectedly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages go away by themselves and rather quickly at that; others may linger and call for medical treatment.

You shouldn’t let your blockage linger for more than a week, as a rule of thumb, without having it examined.

When Should I Worry About a Blocked Ear?

If you’re on the second day of a clogged ear, you might begin to think about possible causes. Perhaps you’ll examine your activities from the previous couple of days: for instance, did you get water in your ear somehow?

You might also examine your health. Are you dealing with the sort of pain or discomfort (or fever) that could be associated with an ear infection? You may want to make an appointment if that’s the situation.

This line of questioning is only a beginning. A clogged ear could have numerous potential causes:

  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, bulges, and lumps which can even obstruct your ears.
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: Some kinds of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. If your “clogged ear” is lasting longer than it should, you need to get it checked out.
  • Allergies: Some pollen allergies can spark the body’s immune system reaction, which will then produces fluid and swelling.
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water trapped in it: The little places inside the ear are surprisingly good at trapping sweat and water. (Temporary blockage can certainly occur if you sweat profusely).
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become obstructed by fluid accumulation or inflammation due to an ear infection.
  • Changes in air pressure: Occasionally, your Eustachian tube can fail to adjust properly to variations in air pressure, causing the feeling of a short-term blockage in your ear or ears.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to accumulate in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all connected (causing a clog).
  • Earwax accumulation: If earwax gets compacted or is not thoroughly draining it can result in blockages..

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

So, if air pressure is the culprit, your ears will usually get back to normal within a day or two. You may have to wait for your immune system to start working if your blockage is due to 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 have a sinus infection.

Getting your ears back to normal as rapidly as you can, then, will normally involve some patience (though that may feel counterintuitive), and you should be able to modify your expectations based on your actual situation.

The number one most important task is to not cause the situation to get worse. When your ears start feeling blocked, you might be tempted to take out the old cotton swab and start trying to manually clean things out. This can be a very dangerous strategy (cotton swabs have been known to cause all kinds of issues and complications, from infection to loss of hearing). You will most likely worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

If Your Ear is Still clogged After a Week…it Could be Hearing Loss

So you may be getting a bit antsy if a couple of days pass and you still have no clue what could be causing your blockage. A few days is normally enough time for your body to eliminate any blockage. But it may be, as a general rule of thumb, a prudent idea 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 you don’t want to neglect hearing loss because, as you’ve probably read in our other posts, it can lead to a whole range of other health concerns.

Being careful not to worsen the problem will usually allow the body to clear up the situation on its own. But treatment might be necessary when those natural means fail. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the base cause of your clogged 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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