What is That Clogging my Ears?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been a couple of days. Your right ear is still totally blocked. You haven’t been able to hear anything in that direction since yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear does double duty to pick up the slack. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

It most likely won’t be a huge surprise to learn that the number one factor in projecting the duration of your blocked ear will be the cause of the obstruction. You might need to seek out medical attention if your blockage is not the type that clears itself up quickly.

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

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Worry?

You will most likely start contemplating the cause of your blockage after around two days. Perhaps you’ll examine your behavior from the last two or three days: for example, did you somehow get water in your ear?

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

Those questions are actually just the tip of the iceberg. A blocked ear could have numerous potential causes:

  • Air pressure changes: If the pressure in the air changes suddenly, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can cause temporary blockage.
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: Some kinds of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. You should schedule an appointment if your “blocked ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Earwax accumulation: Earwax can result in blockages if it’s not properly draining or if it becomes compacted, hardening in place.
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can develop when the body’s immune system kicks in – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Water trapped in the eustachian tube or ear canal: The little areas in the ear are alarmingly efficient at trapping water and sweat. (Short-term blockage can definitely develop if you sweat heavily).
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, bulges, and lumps which can even block your ears.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all interconnected, a sinus infection can create excess fluids to become lodged in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause fluid buildup and inflammation that eventually obstructs your ears.

The Fastest Way to Get Your Ears Back to Normal

So, if air pressure is the culprit, your ears will usually go back to normal in a day or two. If an ear infection is to blame for your blocked ears, you might have to wait until your body fights off 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.

Bringing your ears back to normal as fast as you can, then, will often involve some patience (counterintuitive though it may be), and your expectations should be, well, adjustable.

Not doing anything to exacerbate the situation is the first and most important step. When your ears begin to feel blocked, you might be inclined to pull out the old cotton swab and try to physically clean things out. All kinds of issues, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be a particularly dangerous strategy. You will most likely make the situation worse if you use cotton swabs.

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

So, if your ear is still blocked on day two and you don’t have any really great clue as to what’s causing it, you may be reasonably impatient. In almost all instances, your blockage will clear itself up after a few days. 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 sensation of feeling like your ears are clogged 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 lead to a whole range of other health issues.

Doing no further damage first will give your body a chance to mend and clean that blockage away naturally. But when that fails, intervention could be necessary. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this could take a varying amount of time.

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.