Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

You’re on day two. There’s still total obstruction in your right ear. You haven’t been able to hear anything in that direction since yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, naturally, but only hearing from a single direction leaves you feeling off-balance. It didn’t improve after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

Exactly how long your blockage will last depends, not unexpectedly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages go away by themselves and somewhat quickly at that; others might persist and require medical intervention.

As a rule of thumb, however, if your blockage persists much longer than a week, you might want to seek out some help.

When Should I Be Concerned About a Blocked Ear?

If you’re on day two of a blocked ear, you may begin to think about possible causes. You’ll most likely start thinking about your activities over the last couple of days: were you doing anything that might have resulted in water getting stuck in your ear, for example?

What about your state of health? Do have any symptoms of an ear infection? If that’s the scenario, you may want to make an appointment.

Those questions are truly just the beginning. There are plenty of possible reasons for a blocked ear:

  • Irreversible hearing loss: Some kinds of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. You need to make an appointment if your “clogged ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Growths: Some types of growths, bulges, and lumps can cause a clogged feeling in your ears (and even impact your hearing).
  • Air pressure changes: On occasion, your Eustachian tube can fail to adjust properly to changes in air pressure, causing the feeling of a short-term blockage in one or both ears.
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become blocked by fluid buildup or inflammation from an ear infection.
  • Water trapped in the eustachian tube or ear canal: The little 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).
  • Allergies: Certain pollen allergies can spark the body’s immune system response, which in turn generate swelling and fluid.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid accumulate in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all connected (causing a clog).
  • Earwax Build-up: If earwax gets compacted or is not properly draining it can cause blockages..

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

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will usually get back to normal in 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 (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can be very helpful). 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.

Bringing your ears back to normal as rapidly as you can, then, will usually involve some patience (though that may seem counterintuitive), and your expectations should be, well, variable.

The number one most important task is to not cause the situation to get worse. When you first begin to feel like your ears are clogged, it may be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clean them out. All sorts of issues, from ear infections to hearing loss, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be an especially dangerous approach. If you use a cotton swab, you’re more likely to make the situation worse.

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

So, if your ear remains clogged after two days and you don’t have any really great ideas as to what’s causing it, you may be justifiably impatient. A few days is usually enough time for your body to get rid of any blockage. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things persist for more than a week or so, it might be a good choice to come in for a consultation.

That feeling of clogged ears can also be an indication of hearing loss. And you shouldn’t ignore hearing loss because, as you’ve most likely read in our other posts, it can cause a whole range of other health problems.

Being cautious not to worsen the issue will usually allow the body to take care of the situation on its own. But intervention may be needed when those natural means do not succeed. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the root cause of your clogged ears.

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