Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been a couple of days. There’s still complete blockage in your right ear. You haven’t been able to hear a thing in that direction since yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear works overtime to pick up the slack. You were hoping it would have cleared up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not the case. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

Precisely how long your blockage will persist depends, not unexpectedly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages go away on their own and somewhat quickly at that; others could linger and call for medical treatment.

As a general rule, though, if your blockage persists much longer than a week, you might 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. You’ll most likely start thinking about your activities over the last couple of days: were you involved in anything that might have resulted in water getting trapped in your ear, for example?

You might also consider your health. Are you experiencing the sort of discomfort and pain (or fever) that could be linked to an ear infection? If that’s the case, you may want to schedule an appointment.

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

  • Air pressure variations: On occasion, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to variations in air pressure, creating the feeling of a short-term blockage in one or both ears.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid buildup in your ears because your ears, nose and throat are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water trapped in it: The tiny places inside the ear are alarmingly good at capturing water and sweat. (Temporary blockage can certainly develop if you sweat heavily).
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can develop when the body’s immune system goes to work – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Earwax accumulation: If earwax gets compressed or is not properly draining it can result in blockages..
  • Growths: Some kinds of growths, bulges, and lumps can cause a blocked feeling in your ears (and even obstruct your hearing).
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become clogged by fluid accumulation or inflammation from an ear infection.
  • Permanent hearing impairment: A blocked ear and some types of irreversible hearing loss can feel remarkably similar. You need to schedule an appointment if your “blocked ear” lasts longer than it should.

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

So, if air pressure is the culprit, your ears will usually get back to normal within a day or two. If an ear infection is behind your clogged ears, you might have to wait until your body gets rid of the virus or bacteria at work (you might need an antibiotic to get faster relief). This may take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections sometimes stick around even longer.

Bringing your ears back to normal as quickly as you can, then, will often involve some patience (counterintuitive though it may be), and your expectations should be, well, variable.

Not doing anything to exacerbate the situation is your most important first step. When your ears start to feel blocked, you might be tempted to take out the old cotton swab and start trying to manually clear your ears out. This can be a very dangerous strategy (cotton swabs have been the cause of all sorts of issues and complications, from infection to loss of hearing). If you use a cotton swab, you’re more likely to make things worse.

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

So, if your ear remains clogged after two days and you don’t have any really good clue as to what’s causing it, you might be understandably impatient. In nearly all instances, your blockage will take care of itself after a few days. But it may be, as a general rule of thumb, a good decision to come see us if your blockage persists for more than a week.

Early indications of hearing loss can also feel like clogged 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 problems.

Doing no further damage first will give your body a chance to mend and clean that blockage away naturally. But when that fails, treatment may be necessary. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this may take a varying amount of time.

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