Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been a couple of days. Your right ear is still completely blocked. The last time you were able to hear anything in that direction was yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear works overtime to pick up the slack. It didn’t improve after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So will your clogged ear improve soon?

It most likely won’t be a great surprise to discover that the number one variable in projecting the duration of your clogged ear is the cause of the obstruction. Some blockages subside on their own and fairly quickly at that; others may linger and call for medical treatment.

You shouldn’t allow your blockage to linger for longer than a 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 around two days. Maybe you’ll think about your behavior from the past couple of days: were you doing anything that might have resulted in water getting trapped in your ear, for example?

You might also examine your health. Are you experiencing the sort of pain or discomfort (or fever) that could be associated with an ear infection? If that’s the case, you may want to schedule an appointment.

This line of questioning is only a starting point. A clogged ear could have numerous possible causes:

  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, bulges, and lumps which can even block your ears.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, throat, and ears are all connected, a sinus infection can cause excess fluids to become lodged in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Water trapped in the ear canal or eustachian tube: Water and sweat can get stuck in the tiny places inside your ear with surprising ease. (If you often sweat profusely, this can definitely end up blocking your ears temporarily).
  • Changes in air pressure: On occasion, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to changes in air pressure, creating the feeling of a temporary blockage in your ear or ears.
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can manifest when the body’s immune system goes to work – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Permanent hearing loss: A blocked ear and some forms of irreversible hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. You need to schedule an appointment if your “blocked ear” persists longer than it should.
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become obstructed by fluid accumulation or inflammation from an ear infection.
  • Build-up of earwax: If earwax becomes compressed or is not thoroughly draining it can result in blockages..

The Quickest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

So, if air pressure is the culprit, your ears will normally go back to normal within a day or two. If an ear infection is to blame for your clogged ears, you may have to wait until your body fights off the virus or bacteria at work (you may need an antibiotic to get faster relief). 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.

Some patience will be needed before your ears return to normal (counterintuitive though it may be), 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 to feel blocked, you might be tempted to take out the old cotton swab and attempt to physically clean your ears out. All sorts of problems, from ear infections to hearing loss, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be a particularly dangerous approach. You will probably make the situation worse if you use cotton swabs.

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

So you may be getting a little antsy if a couple of days pass and you still have no idea what might be causing your blockage. In nearly all cases, your blockage will take care of itself after a few days. 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 indications of hearing loss can also feel like clogged ears. And you shouldn’t neglect hearing loss because, as you’ve most likely read in our other posts, it can lead to a whole range of other health problems.

Doing no further damage first will allow your body an opportunity to mend and clean that blockage away naturally. But treatment may be necessary when those natural means fail. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this might take a varying amount of time.

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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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