Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been a couple of days. There’s still complete obstruction in your right ear. 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 does double duty to compensate. It didn’t improve after a night’s sleep as you were hoping it would. So will your clogged ear improve soon?

Precisely how long your blockage will last depends, not unexpectedly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages subside on their own and rather quickly at that; others might linger and require medical intervention.

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

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Concern?

You will probably start contemplating the reason for your blockage after around two days. Maybe you’ll think about your activities from the previous two or three days: for instance, did you get water in your ear somehow?

You may also examine your health. Do have any symptoms of an ear infection? If that’s the case, you might want to make an appointment.

This line of questioning is merely a beginning. A clogged ear could have numerous possible causes:

  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become obstructed by fluid buildup or inflammation due to an ear infection.
  • Water trapped in the ear canal or eustachian tube: Sweat and water can get trapped in the little areas of your ear with surprising ease. (If you tend to sweat copiously, this can definitely end up temporarily clogging your ears).
  • Earwax accumulation: If earwax gets compacted or is not properly draining it can cause blockages..
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, throat, and ears are all connected, a sinus infection can create excess fluids to become stuck in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Allergies: Various pollen allergies can trigger the body’s immune system response, which will then cause swelling and fluid.
  • 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” persists longer than it should.
  • Air pressure changes: Once in a while, your Eustachian tube can fail to adjust properly to changes in air pressure, creating the feeling of a short-term blockage in one or both ears.
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, lumps, and bulges which can even block your ears.

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

Your ears will probably go back to normal after a couple of days if the blockage is caused by air pressure. If an ear infection is to blame for 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). This may take up to a couple of weeks. You might have to wait even longer than that if you have a sinus infection.

Some patience will be necessary before your ears get back to normal (counterintuitive though it might be), and your expectations should be, well, adjustable.

Not doing anything to exacerbate the situation is your most important first step. When you first begin to feel like your ears are clogged, it might be tempting to try and use cotton swabs to clear them out. This can be a very hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been the cause of all kinds of problems and complications, from infection to hearing loss). You will most likely make the situation worse 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 blocked on day two and you don’t have any really good ideas as to what’s causing it, you might be reasonably impatient. A few days is usually enough time for your body to eliminate any blockage. But the general rule of thumb is that if things last for more than a week or so, it might be a wise decision to come see us.

Early indications of hearing loss can also feel like blocked ears. And you don’t want to neglect hearing loss because, as you’ve probably read in our other posts, it can lead to a whole host of other health concerns.

Being careful not to worsen the issue will normally permit the body to clear up the matter on its own. But intervention could be required when those natural means fail. How long that takes will vary depending on the underlying cause of your blocked ears.

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