Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now day two. There’s still total obstruction in your right ear. You haven’t been able to hear anything in that direction since yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, naturally, but only being able to hear from one direction leaves you feeling off-balance. It didn’t improve after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So will your clogged ear improve soon?

It probably won’t be a huge shock to find out that the single biggest factor in predicting the duration of your clogged ear will be the cause of the obstruction. Some blockages subside by themselves and somewhat quickly at that; others may persist and require medical treatment.

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

When Should I Be Concerned About a Blocked Ear?

If you’re on the second day of a clogged ear, you might begin to think about possible causes. You’ll most likely start thinking about what you’ve been doing over the last couple of days: were you involved in anything that might have led to water getting stuck in your ear, for instance?

What about the condition of your health? Are you suffering from any symptoms of an ear infection? If that’s the case, you might want to schedule an appointment.

Those questions are actually just the beginning. A blocked ear could have numerous possible causes:

  • Air pressure variations: On occasion, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to changes in air pressure, creating the feeling of a temporary blockage in one or both ears.
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, lumps, and bulges which can even block your ears.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid accumulate in your ears because your ears, nose and throat are all connected (causing a clog).
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause inflammation and fluid buildup that ultimately obstructs your ears.
  • The eustachian tube or ear canal gets water stuck in it: The tiny areas in the ear are surprisingly good at capturing sweat and water. (Short-term blockage can definitely occur if you sweat heavily).
  • Earwax accumulation: If earwax becomes compressed or is not properly draining it can cause blockages..
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: Some types of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. You need to make an appointment if your “blocked ear” persists longer than it should.
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can manifest when the body’s immune system goes to work – in response to an allergic reaction.

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

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will normally return to normal within a day or two. If an ear infection is behind your blocked ears, you might have to wait until your body gets rid of the virus or bacteria at work (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can really help). This could take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections sometimes last even longer.

Some patience will be needed before your ears return to normal (counterintuitive though it might be), and you should be able to change your expectations based on your exact circumstances.

The number one most important task is to not cause the situation to get worse. When you first begin to feel like your ears are blocked, it may be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clear them out. All kinds of problems, from ear infections to hearing loss, 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 remains clogged after two days and you don’t have any really great clue as to what’s causing it, you may be reasonably impatient. A few days is normally enough time for your body to get rid of any blockage. 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.

That feeling of blocked ears can also be a sign of hearing loss. And as you most likely understand from our other posts, untreated hearing loss can cause other health concerns, especially over time.

Being careful not to worsen the issue will normally allow the body to clear up the matter on its own. But treatment might be required when those natural means fail. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the root cause of your blocked ears.

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