Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

You’re on day two. There’s still total blockage in your right ear. The last time you remember hearing anything on that side was yesterday morning. Your left ear is picking up the slack, naturally, but only being able to hear from one direction is leaving you off-balance. You were hoping it would have cleared up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not happening. So, how long will your ear remain blocked?

Exactly how long your blockage will last depends, not surprisingly, on what the cause of the blockage is. You might need to get medical attention if your blockage is not the type that clears itself up quickly.

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?

If you’re on the second day of a blocked ear, you may begin to think about potential causes. You’ll most likely start thinking about what you’ve been doing over the past couple of days: were you doing anything that might have led to water getting trapped in your ear, for instance?

What about your state of health? Are you suffering from the kind of discomfort and pain (or fever) that might be related to 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 multiple possible causes:

  • The eustachian tube or ear canal gets water trapped in it: Water and sweat can get stuck in the tiny places inside your ear with alarming ease. (Short-term blockage can definitely develop if you sweat heavily).
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can bring about inflammation and fluid buildup that eventually blocks your ears.
  • Build-up of earwax: If earwax becomes compressed or is not properly draining it can result in blockages..
  • Permanent hearing impairment: Some forms of hearing loss feel a lot like a clogged ear. You need to schedule an appointment if your “blocked ear” persists longer than it should.
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can develop when the body’s immune system goes to work – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, lumps, and bulges which can even block your ears.
  • Air pressure changes: On occasion, your Eustachian tube can fail to adjust properly to variations in air pressure, causing the feeling of a short-term blockage in your ear or ears.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid buildup in your ears because your ears, nose and throat are all interconnected (causing a clog).

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

So, if air pressure is the culprit, your ears will usually return 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 gets rid of the virus or bacteria at work (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can be very helpful). This could take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections sometimes stick around even longer.

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

Not doing anything to worsen the situation is your most important first step. When you first begin to feel like your ears are blocked, it may be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clean them out. All sorts of issues, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be a particularly dangerous approach. If you use a cotton swab, you’re more likely to make the situation worse.

It’s Possible That Your “Blockage” is Hearing Loss

So you may be getting a bit antsy if a couple of days pass and you still have no clue what could be the cause of your blockage. A few days is usually enough time for your body to clear up any blockage. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things persist for more than a week or so, it may be a smart decision to come in for a consultation.

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

Doing no additional harm first will allow your body a chance to heal and clear that blockage away naturally. But when that fails, intervention might be necessary. How long that takes will vary depending on the root cause of your clogged ears.

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