Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

You’re on day two. There’s still total 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 does double duty 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 will your clogged ear improve soon?

It most likely won’t be a great shock to find out that the number one factor in projecting the duration of your blocked ear will be the cause of the obstruction. Some blockages recede by themselves and rather quickly at that; others may persist and require medical intervention.

You shouldn’t let your blockage linger for more than one week, as a rule of thumb, without getting it examined.

When Does a Blocked Ear Become a Worry?

If you’re on the second day of a clogged ear, you may start thinking about possible causes. Perhaps you’ll think about your behavior from the previous couple of days: were you doing anything that might have led to water getting trapped in your ear, for instance?

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

This line of questioning is only a starting point. There are plenty of potential reasons for a clogged ear:

  • Allergies: Some pollen allergies can spark the body’s immune system response, which will then produces swelling and fluid.
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can bring about inflammation and fluid buildup that ultimately obstructs your ears.
  • Earwax Build-up: If earwax becomes compressed or is not properly draining it can result in blockages..
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, bulges, and lumps which can even obstruct your ears.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to buildup in your ears because your ears, nose and throat are all connected (causing a clog).
  • The eustachian tube or ear canal gets water trapped in it: The little areas in the ear are alarmingly efficient at trapping sweat and water. (If you tend to sweat copiously, this can definitely end up blocking your ears temporarily).
  • Permanent loss of hearing: Some kinds of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. You should schedule an appointment if your “clogged ear” persists longer than it should.
  • Air pressure changes: If the pressure in the air changes suddenly, your eustachian tube can fail to adjust which can temporarily cause obstruction.

The Fastest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

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 to blame for your clogged 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. Sinus infections have been known to stick around even longer.

Some patience will be necessary before your ears return to normal (though that might seem counterintuitive), and you should be able to modify your expectations based on your actual circumstances.

The number one most important task is to not make the situation worse. When your ears start to feel clogged, you might be tempted to take out the old cotton swab and try to manually clear your ears out. This can be a very dangerous strategy (cotton swabs have been known to cause all sorts of issues and complications, from infection to hearing loss). You will most likely worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

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

So you may be getting a bit antsy if a couple of days go by and you still have no idea what might be causing your blockage. In almost all instances, your blockage will take care of itself after a few days. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things last for more than a week or so, it may be a wise choice to come see us.

That feeling of clogged ears can also be a sign of hearing loss. And as you probably know from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can result in other health concerns, especially over time.

Doing no additional harm first will give your body an opportunity to mend and clean that blockage away naturally. But treatment may be necessary when those natural means fail. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this might take a varying amount of time.

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