Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been a couple of days. There’s still total blockage in your right ear. You haven’t been able to hear a thing on that side since yesterday morning. Your left ear is picking up the slack, naturally, but only being able to hear from a single direction is leaving you off-balance. You thought it might up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not happening. So will your blocked ear improve soon?

It most likely won’t be a huge shock to learn that the number one factor in projecting the duration of your clogged ear is the cause of the obstruction. Some blockages recede by themselves and somewhat quickly at that; others may persist and require medical intervention.

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

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Concern?

You will most likely start contemplating the cause of your blockage after about a couple of days. You’ll most likely begin to think about what you’ve been doing for the last couple of days: for instance, did you somehow get water in your ear?

You may 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 clogged ear could have multiple possible causes:

  • Earwax accumulation: If earwax becomes compressed or is not thoroughly draining it can cause blockages..
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: A blocked ear and some kinds of permanent hearing loss can feel remarkably similar. You need to schedule an appointment if your “clogged ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Allergies: Certain pollen allergies can trigger the body’s immune system response, which in turn generate fluid and swelling.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid accumulate in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all connected (causing a clog).
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become blocked by fluid accumulation or inflammation due to an ear infection.
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water stuck in it: The tiny areas in the ear are alarmingly efficient at trapping sweat and water. (If you often sweat copiously, this can definitely end up temporarily clogging your ears).
  • Air pressure changes: If the pressure in the air changes all of a sudden, your eustachian tube can fail to adjust which can cause temporary obstruction.
  • Growths: Some kinds of growths, lumps, and bulges can cause a blocked feeling in your ears (and even obstruct your hearing).

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

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will normally go back to normal within a day or two. You may need 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 might take as much as a week or two. Sinus infections have been known to last even longer.

A bit of patience will be necessary before your ears get back to normal (though that might seem counterintuitive), and your expectations should be, well, variable.

Your first and most important job is to not make the situation worse. When your ears start feeling blocked, you might be tempted to pull out the old cotton swab and attempt to physically clean things out. This can be a very hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been the cause of all sorts of issues and difficulties, from infection to loss of hearing). You will probably 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 pass and you still have no clue what could be the cause of your blockage. In almost all instances, your blockage will clear itself up after a few days. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things persist for more than a week or so, it may be a wise idea to come in for a consultation.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like clogged ears. And as you probably know from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can lead to other health issues, especially over time.

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

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