Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been two days. There’s still total obstruction in your right ear. The last time you were able to hear anything on that side was yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear does double duty to pick up the slack. You were hoping it would have cleared up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not happening. So will your clogged ear improve soon?

Exactly 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 may linger and require medical treatment.

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

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Worry?

You will probably start contemplating the reason for your blockage after about two days. You’ll most likely start thinking about your activities over the past couple of days: for example, did you get water in your ear somehow?

You may also consider your health. Are you suffering from any symptoms of an ear infection? If that’s the case, you may want to make an appointment.

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

  • Growths: Certain types of growths, lumps, and bulges can cause a blocked feeling in your ears (and even obstruct your hearing).
  • Permanent hearing loss: Some types of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. You should make an appointment if your “clogged ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can occur when the body’s immune system kicks in – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Air pressure variations: If the pressure in the air changes all of a sudden, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can cause temporary obstruction.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all interconnected, a sinus infection can produce excess fluids to become lodged in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can bring about inflammation and fluid buildup that eventually obstructs your ears.
  • Water stuck in the eustachian tube or ear canal: The tiny areas in the ear are surprisingly efficient at capturing water and sweat. (Short-term blockage can definitely develop if you sweat profusely).
  • Build-up of earwax: If earwax gets compacted or is not thoroughly draining it can cause blockages..

The Fastest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

So, if air pressure is the culprit, your ears will usually get back to normal in a day or two. You may have to wait for your immune system to start working if your blockage is caused by an ear infection (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can really help). This could take up to a couple of weeks. You may have to wait even longer than that if you have a sinus infection.

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

Not doing anything to worsen the situation is the first and most important step. When your ears start feeling blocked, you may be inclined to pull out the old cotton swab and try to physically clear things out. All kinds of problems, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be a particularly dangerous strategy. If you use a cotton swab, you’re more likely to make things worse.

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

So, if your ear is still blocked after two days and you don’t have any really good clue as to what’s causing it, you may be reasonably impatient. In nearly all cases, your blockage will take care of itself after a few days. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things last for more than a week or so, it might be a good idea to come see us.

Early indications 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 concerns, particularly over time.

Doing no further harm first will allow your body a chance to mend and clear that blockage away naturally. But intervention might be required when those natural means do not succeed. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this could take a varying amount of time.

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