Hearing Health Blog

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

You’re on day two. Your right ear is still totally clogged. The last time you remember hearing anything in that direction was yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear does double duty to pick up the slack. You thought it might up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not the case. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

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

As a rule of thumb, though, if your blockage lasts for any longer than a week, you may want to seek out some help.

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Worry?

You will most likely start contemplating the cause of your blockage after around a couple of days. Perhaps you’ll think about your activities from the last couple of days: were you doing anything that might have resulted in water getting trapped in your ear, for example?

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

This line of questioning is only a beginning. There are plenty of possible reasons for a clogged ear:

  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become clogged by fluid accumulation or inflammation from an ear infection.
  • Changes in air pressure: On occasion, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to changes in air pressure, creating the feeling of a short-term blockage in one or both ears.
  • Permanent hearing impairment: A blocked ear and some kinds of irreversible hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. If your “blocked ear” is lasting longer than it should, you need to have it checked out.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to accumulate in your ears because your ears, nose and throat are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • Earwax Build-up: Earwax can cause blockages if it’s not thoroughly draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, bulges, and lumps which can even block your ears.
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can manifest when the body’s immune system goes to work – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • The eustachian tube or ear canal gets water trapped in it: The little places inside the ear are surprisingly efficient at trapping water and sweat. (Temporary blockage can definitely occur if you sweat heavily).

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

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will usually go back to normal within a day or two. You might 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). And that may take as much as a week or two. You might have to wait even longer than that if you have a sinus infection.

Some patience will be required before your ears return to normal (though that might seem counterintuitive), and you should be able to adjust your expectations according to your actual circumstances.

Not doing anything to worsen the situation is your most important first step. When your ears begin to feel blocked, you may be inclined to take out the old cotton swab and try to physically clear your ears out. All kinds of problems, from ear infections to hearing loss, can be caused by cotton swabs so this can be a particularly dangerous approach. 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 you might be getting a little antsy if a couple of days pass and you still have no clue what could be causing your blockage. A few days is usually enough time for your body to eliminate any blockage. But it might be, as a general rule of thumb, a good decision to come see us if your blockage lasts for more than a week.

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

Doing no further damage first will allow your body an opportunity to heal and clean that blockage away naturally. But when that fails, treatment could be required. How long that takes will vary depending on the underlying cause of your clogged ears.

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