Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now day two. There’s still complete blockage in your right ear. The last time you were able to hear anything on that side was yesterday morning. Your left ear is picking up the slack, naturally, but only hearing from one direction leaves 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 blocked ear last?

Exactly how long your blockage will last depends, not unexpectedly, 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.

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

When Should I Be Concerned About a Blocked Ear?

If you’re on the second day of a clogged ear, you might start thinking about potential causes. Perhaps you’ll examine your activities from the last two or three days: were you doing anything that could have led to water getting stuck in your ear, for example?

What about your state of health? Are you dealing with the sort of discomfort and pain (or fever) that may be related to an ear infection? You may want to schedule an appointment if that’s the situation.

Those questions are truly just the beginning. There are plenty of potential reasons for a clogged ear:

  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid accumulate in your ears because your ears, nose and throat are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • Earwax Build-up: Earwax can result in blockages if it’s not properly draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Permanent hearing loss: A clogged ear and some types of irreversible hearing loss can feel remarkably similar. If your “blocked ear” is persisting longer than it should, you need to get it checked out.
  • The eustachian tube or ear canal gets water trapped in it: Water and sweat can become stuck in the tiny areas of your ear with surprising ease. (If you tend to sweat profusely, this can definitely end up temporarily clogging your ears).
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can manifest when the body’s immune system kicks in – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Variations in air pressure: Occasionally, your Eustachian tube can fail to adjust properly to changes in air pressure, causing the feeling of a short-term blockage in one or both ears.
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, lumps, and bulges which can even block your ears.
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become clogged by fluid accumulation or inflammation from an ear infection.

How to Get Your Ears Back to Normal as Fast as You Can

So, if air pressure is the culprit, your ears will normally return to normal within a day or two. If an ear infection is to blame for your blocked ears, you may have to wait until your body gets rid of the virus or bacteria at work (you may need an antibiotic to get faster relief). And that could take up to a week or two. You might have to wait even longer than that if you have a sinus infection.

Bringing your ears back to normal as fast as you can, then, will usually involve some patience (though that may feel counterintuitive), and you should be able to modify your expectations based on your exact situation.

The number one most important task is to not cause the situation to get worse. When your ears start to feel blocked, you might be inclined to take out the old cotton swab and start trying to manually clean your ears out. All sorts of issues, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can be caused by cotton swabs so this can be a particularly dangerous strategy. You will probably make the situation worse if you use cotton swabs.

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

So you may be getting a little antsy if a couple of days pass and you still have no idea what might be the cause of your blockage. In nearly all instances, your blockage will take care of itself after a few days. But the general rule of thumb is that if things last for more than a week or so, it might be a good choice to come see us.

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

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

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