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Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now day two. Your right ear is still totally clogged. You haven’t been able to hear a thing in that direction since yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear does double duty to compensate. You thought it might up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not the case. So will your clogged ear improve soon?

It probably won’t be a big shock to discover that the number one factor in projecting the duration of your blocked ear will be the cause of the obstruction. Some blockages go away by themselves and rather quickly at that; others may linger and require medical treatment.

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

When Should I Worry About a Blocked Ear?

You will probably begin to think about the reason for your blockage after about a couple of days. Perhaps you’ll examine your activities from the past two or three days: were you involved in anything that could have led to water getting trapped in your ear, for example?

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

This line of questioning is merely a starting point. There are plenty of potential reasons for a clogged ear:

  • Permanent hearing loss: A clogged ear and some types of irreversible hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. If your “clogged ear” is lasting longer than it should, you need to have it checked out.
  • Allergies: Certain pollen allergies can trigger the body’s immune system response, which in turn produces fluid and swelling.
  • Variations in air pressure: Occasionally, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to variations in air pressure, causing the feeling of a temporary blockage in one or both ears.
  • Water stuck in the ear canal or eustachian tube: The little places inside the ear are surprisingly efficient at capturing water and sweat. (If you tend to sweat profusely, this can definitely end up temporarily clogging your ears).
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, bulges, and lumps which can even obstruct your ears.
  • Earwax accumulation: Earwax can lead to blockages if it’s not properly draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause fluid buildup and inflammation that ultimately blocks your ears.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, throat, and ears are all interconnected, a sinus infection can create excess fluids to become stuck in your ears (causing a clog).

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

Your ears will most likely return to normal after a couple of days if the blockage is caused by air pressure. If an ear infection is behind your clogged 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 really help). And that may take up to a week or two. Sinus infections sometimes last even longer.

Bringing your ears back to normal as quickly as possible, then, will normally involve a bit of patience (though that may feel counterintuitive), and your expectations should be, well, adjustable.

Not doing anything to exacerbate the situation is the first and most important step. When your ears start to feel blocked, you might be inclined to take out the old cotton swab and start trying to manually clear your ears out. All kinds of issues, from ear infections to hearing loss, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be an especially dangerous approach. You will most likely make the situation worse if you use cotton swabs.

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

So you could be getting a little antsy if a couple of days go by and you still have no idea what might be causing your blockage. In nearly all instances, your blockage will take care of itself after a few days. But the general rule of thumb is that if things last for more than a week or so, it may be a wise decision to come see us.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like blocked ears. And you don’t want to ignore 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 permit the body to take care of the matter on its own. But when that fails, treatment could be required. How long that takes will vary depending on the root 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.