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Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now day two. There’s still total obstruction 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, of course, but only hearing from a single direction is leaving you feeling off-balance. You were hoping it would have cleared up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not the case. So will your blocked ear improve soon?

Exactly how long your blockage will last depends, not unexpectedly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages recede on their own and rather quickly at that; others may linger and call for medical intervention.

As a rule of thumb, though, if your blockage lasts much longer than a week, you may want to get some help.

When Should I Be Concerned About a Clogged Ear?

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

You might also consider your health. Are you dealing with the kind of pain or discomfort (or fever) that might be connected to an ear infection? You may want to schedule an appointment if that’s the case.

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

  • Irreversible hearing impairment: A clogged ear and some types of permanent hearing loss can feel remarkably similar. You need to make an appointment if your “blocked ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Accumulation of earwax: Earwax can result in blockages if it’s not properly draining or if it becomes compacted, hardening in place.
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become clogged by fluid buildup or inflammation from an ear infection.
  • Air pressure variations: If the pressure in the air changes abruptly, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can temporarily cause obstruction.
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can occur when the body’s immune system goes to work – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Growths: Some kinds of growths, bulges, and lumps can cause a clogged feeling in your ears (and even obstruct your hearing).
  • Water trapped in the eustachian tube or ear canal: Water and sweat can get stuck in the little areas of your ear with surprising ease. (If you tend to sweat profusely, this can certainly end up clogging your ears temporarily).
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid buildup in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all connected (causing a clog).

The Quickest Way to Get Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will probably go back to normal after a couple of days if air pressure is causing your blockage. You may need to wait for your immune system to start working if your blockage is caused by an ear infection (you might need an antibiotic to get faster relief). This could take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections have been known to stick around even longer.

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

Your first and most important job is to not make the situation worse. When you first start to feel like your ears are clogged, it might be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clean them out. All kinds of issues, from ear infections to hearing loss, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be a particularly dangerous strategy. You will probably worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

If Your Ear is Still Blocked After a Week…it May be Hearing Loss

So, if your ear is still clogged after two days and you don’t have any really great ideas as to what’s causing it, you might be reasonably impatient. In almost all cases, 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 might be a smart decision to come in for a consultation.

That feeling of clogged ears can also be an indication of hearing loss. And as you most likely understand from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can cause other health issues, especially over time.

Doing no further harm first will give your body a chance to heal and clear that blockage away naturally. But treatment may be needed when those natural means fail. How long that takes will vary depending on the base cause of your clogged ears.

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Main Line Audiology Consultants, PC