Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now day two. There’s still total blockage in your right ear. You haven’t been able to hear a thing on that side since yesterday morning. Your left ear is picking up the slack, of course, but only being able to hear from a single direction leaves you feeling off-balance. You were hoping it would have cleared up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not the case. So will your clogged ear improve soon?

It probably won’t be a huge shock to learn that the number one variable in predicting the duration of your clogged ear is the cause of the blockage. Some blockages subside on their own and rather quickly at that; others could linger and call for medical intervention.

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

When Should I Be Concerned About a Clogged Ear?

You will most likely start contemplating the reason for your blockage after about a couple of days. You’ll most likely start thinking about what you’ve been doing over the last couple of days: for example, did you get water in your ear somehow?

How about your state of health? Do have any symptoms of an ear infection? You might want to make an appointment if that’s the case.

Those questions are truly just the tip of the iceberg. A blocked ear could have multiple possible causes:

  • Build-up of earwax: If earwax gets compacted or is not thoroughly draining it can result in blockages..
  • Air pressure changes: Once in a while, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to changes in air pressure, causing the feeling of a temporary blockage in your ear or ears.
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: Some forms of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. You should make an appointment if your “clogged ear” persists longer than it should.
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can bring about fluid buildup and inflammation that eventually blocks your ears.
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, lumps, and bulges which can even block your ears.
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can manifest when the body’s immune system goes to work – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Water trapped in the ear canal or eustachian tube: Water and sweat can become trapped in the little areas of your ear with surprising ease. (If you often sweat copiously, this can certainly end up temporarily clogging your 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 You Can

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 kick in if your blockage is due to an ear infection (you might need an antibiotic to get faster relief). And that might take as much as a week or two. You might 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 may feel counterintuitive), and your expectations need to be, well, adjustable.

Your first and most important job is to not make the situation worse. When you first start to feel like your ears are blocked, it may be tempting to try and 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. You will probably make the situation worse if you use cotton swabs.

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

So, if your ear is still clogged on day two and you don’t have any really great ideas as to what’s causing it, you might be understandably impatient. In nearly all cases, your blockage will clear itself up after a few days. But it may be, as a general rule of thumb, a good idea to come see us if your blockage persists for more than a week.

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

Being careful not to worsen the problem will usually permit the body to clear up the situation on its own. But intervention may be needed when those natural means do not succeed. How long that takes will vary depending on the underlying cause of your blocked ears.

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