Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now day two. Your right ear is still completely blocked. You haven’t been able to hear a thing on that side since 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 hoped it would. So, how long will your ear remain blocked?

It probably won’t be a big shock to learn that the single biggest factor in predicting the duration of your blocked ear will be the cause of the obstruction. Some blockages go away on their own and somewhat quickly at that; others could persist and call for medical intervention.

As a general rule, though, if your blockage persists, you may want to seek out some help, and you should always treat sudden hearing loss as an emergency.

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Concern?

If you’re on the second day of a clogged ear, you might begin to think about potential causes. You’ll probably begin to think about your activities for the last couple of days: for example, did you get water in your ear somehow?

How about the condition of your health? Are you suffering from the kind of discomfort and pain (or fever) that might be linked to an ear infection? You may want to schedule an appointment if that’s the case.

Those questions are actually just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of possible reasons for a blocked ear:

  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can occur when the body’s immune system kicks in – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • 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 surprising ease. (Temporary blockage can certainly occur if you sweat heavily).
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to buildup in your ears because your ears, nose and throat are all connected (causing a clog).
  • Air pressure variations: If the pressure in the air changes abruptly, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can cause temporary obstruction.
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: Some forms of hearing loss feel a lot like a clogged ear. You should schedule an appointment if your “clogged ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Build-up of earwax: If earwax gets compacted or is not properly draining it can result in blockages..
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become clogged by fluid accumulation or inflammation from an ear infection.
  • Growths: Certain types of growths, lumps, and bulges can cause a clogged feeling in your ears (and even interfere with your hearing).

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

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will usually return to normal. If an ear infection is behind your blocked ears, you might have to wait until your body fights off the virus or bacteria at work (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can be very helpful). And that may take up to a week or two. Sinus infections sometimes last even longer.

Some patience will be required before your ears return to normal (though that may seem counterintuitive), and your expectations should be, well, variable.

Your first and most important job is to not cause the situation to get worse. When your ears start feeling clogged, you might be inclined to pull out the old cotton swab and start trying to manually clear your ears out. This can be a very hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been the cause of all kinds of issues and complications, from infection to hearing loss). If you use a cotton swab, you’re more likely to make things worse.

If Your Ear is Still Clogged…it Might be Hearing Loss

So, if your ear remains blocked after and you don’t have any really good clue as to what’s causing it, you might be reasonably impatient. A day is normally enough time for your body to get rid of any blockage. But it may be, as a basic rule of thumb, a prudent decision to come see us if your blockage persists 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 most likely read in our other posts, it can cause a whole range of other health issues.

Being cautious not to worsen the problem will normally permit the body to clear up the matter on its own. But treatment may be necessary when those natural means fail. How long that takes will vary depending on the underlying cause of your blocked ears.

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