Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been a couple of days. There’s still total blockage in your right ear. 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 blocked ear last?

It most likely won’t be a big surprise to find out that the number one factor in projecting the duration of your blocked ear will be the cause of the blockage. Some blockages recede on their own and rather quickly at that; others may persist and call for medical treatment.

As a general rule, though, if your blockage persists much longer than a week, you may want to get some help.

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Worry?

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

You may also think about your health. Are you suffering from any symptoms of an ear infection? You might want to schedule an appointment if that’s the case.

This line of questioning is only a beginning. A clogged ear could have multiple potential causes:

  • Earwax accumulation: Earwax can cause blockages if it’s not properly draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • The eustachian tube or ear canal gets water trapped in it: The tiny areas in the ear are alarmingly good at trapping sweat and water. (Short-term blockage can definitely occur if you sweat profusely).
  • Changes in air pressure: Occasionally, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to changes in air pressure, creating the feeling of a temporary blockage in your ear or ears.
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: A blocked ear and some kinds of irreversible hearing loss can feel remarkably similar. If your “blocked ear” is lasting longer than it should, you need to get it checked out.
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become blocked by fluid accumulation or inflammation from an ear infection.
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can develop when the body’s immune system kicks in – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid accumulate in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • Growths: Certain kinds of growths, bulges, and lumps can cause a blocked feeling in your ears (and even impact your hearing).

The Fastest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will probably return to normal after a couple of days if the blockage is caused by air pressure. 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 (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can be very helpful). This may take up to a couple of weeks. You might have to wait even longer than that if you have a sinus infection.

Some patience will be needed before your ears get back to normal (counterintuitive though it may be), and you need to be able to change your expectations based on your exact situation.

The number one most important job is to not make the situation worse. When you first begin to feel like your ears are plugged, it may be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clean them out. All sorts of issues, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can be caused by cotton swabs so this can be an especially dangerous strategy. You will most likely worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

If Your Ear is Still Blocked After a Week…it Could be Hearing Loss

So, if your ear is still blocked after two days and you don’t have any really great ideas as to what’s causing it, you may be reasonably impatient. In almost all cases, your blockage will take care of itself after a few days. But it might be, as a general rule of thumb, a good decision to come see us if your blockage lasts for more than a week.

That sensation of feeling like your ears are blocked can also be an indication of hearing loss. And as you probably know from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can cause other health issues, particularly over time.

Being cautious not to worsen the issue will usually allow the body to clear up the matter on its own. But when that fails, treatment could be necessary. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this might take a varying amount of time.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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