Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been two days. Your right ear is still completely blocked. The last time you were able to hear anything in that direction was yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear works overtime to compensate. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you were hoping it would. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

It probably won’t be a great surprise to discover that the single biggest variable in predicting the duration of your clogged ear is the cause of the obstruction. You may need to seek out medical attention if your blockage is not the kind that clears itself up quickly.

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

When Should I Be Concerned About a Clogged Ear?

You will probably start contemplating the cause of your blockage after about a couple of days. You’ll probably start thinking about your activities over the last couple of days: for instance, did you get water in your ear somehow?

You may also consider your health. Are you suffering from the sort of pain or discomfort (or fever) that might be linked to an ear infection? If that’s the case, you may want to schedule an appointment.

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

  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can develop when the body’s immune system kicks in – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, throat, and ears are all connected, a sinus infection can create excess fluids to become stuck in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Air pressure changes: If the pressure in the air changes suddenly, your eustachian tube can fail to adjust which can temporarily cause blockage.
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: Some forms of hearing loss feel a lot like a clogged ear. You should make an appointment if your “blocked ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Accumulation of earwax: Earwax can result in blockages if it’s not effectively draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, bulges, and lumps which can even block your ears.
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause fluid buildup and inflammation that eventually blocks your ears.
  • Water stuck in the eustachian tube or ear canal: Sweat and water can become trapped in the tiny places inside your ear with surprising ease. (Temporary blockage can definitely occur if you sweat profusely).

The Quickest Way to Get Your Ears Back to Normal

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

Some patience will be necessary before your ears return to normal (counterintuitive though it may be), and you need to be able to change your expectations according to your exact situation.

The number one most important job is to not cause the situation to get worse. When you first begin to feel like your ears are plugged, it may be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clear them out. All kinds of issues, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can be caused by cotton swabs so this can be a particularly dangerous strategy. If you use a cotton swab, you’re probably going to make things worse.

If Your Ear is Still Clogged After a Week…it May be Hearing Loss

So you might be getting a bit 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 clear itself up 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 good choice to come see us.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like clogged ears. And you shouldn’t ignore hearing loss because, as you’ve most likely read in our other posts, it can result in a whole range of other health issues.

Doing no further harm first will allow your body an opportunity to heal and clean that blockage away naturally. But when that fails, treatment may be necessary. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the underlying cause of your clogged ears.

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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.