Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been two days. Your right ear is still completely blocked. You haven’t been able to hear anything on that side since yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear works overtime to compensate. You were hoping it would have cleared up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not happening. So, how long will your ear remain clogged?

Exactly how long your blockage will last 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 kind that clears itself up quickly.

As a general rule, however, if your blockage persists for any longer than a week, you might want to get some help.

When Does a Blocked Ear Become a Concern?

You will probably begin to think about the reason for your blockage after about a couple of days. Maybe you’ll think about your behavior from the past two or three days: for example, did you somehow get water in your ear?

How about your state of health? Do have any symptoms of an ear infection? If that’s the scenario, you might want to schedule an appointment.

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

  • Irreversible hearing impairment: Some types of hearing loss feel a lot like a clogged ear. You should schedule an appointment if your “blocked ear” persists longer than it should.
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can occur when the body’s immune system kicks in – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, throat, and ears are all connected, a sinus infection can produce excess fluids to become stuck in your ears (causing a clog).
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water trapped in it: Sweat and water can become stuck in the tiny places inside your ear with alarming ease. (If you tend to sweat copiously, this can definitely end up temporarily clogging your ears).
  • Air pressure changes: If the pressure in the air changes suddenly, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can temporarily cause obstruction.
  • Earwax Build-up: Earwax can cause blockages if it’s not thoroughly draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become obstructed by fluid accumulation or inflammation due to an ear infection.
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, lumps, and bulges which can even obstruct your ears.

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

Your ears will probably go back to normal after a couple of days if air pressure is causing your blockage. If an ear infection is behind your clogged ears, you may have to wait until your body fights off the virus or bacteria at work (you may need an antibiotic to get faster relief). And that might take up to a week or two. Sinus infections sometimes stick around even longer.

Getting your ears back to normal as rapidly as you can, then, will often involve a bit of patience (counterintuitive though it may be), and your expectations need to be, well, adjustable.

Not doing anything to aggravate the situation is your most important first step. When your ears begin feeling clogged, you may be inclined to pull out the old cotton swab and start trying to physically clear your ears out. This can be an especially hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been the cause of all kinds of problems and complications, from infection to loss of hearing). You will probably worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

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

So you could be getting a bit antsy if a couple of days go by and you still have no idea what could be the cause of your blockage. In almost all cases, your blockage will clear itself up after a few days. But the general rule of thumb is that if things last for more than a week or so, it may be a good decision to come see us.

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

Doing no further harm first will allow your body a chance to mend and clean that blockage away naturally. But when that fails, treatment might be required. How long that takes will vary depending on the underlying cause of your clogged ears.

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