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Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

You’re on day two. Your right ear is still totally blocked. 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 works overtime to pick up the slack. It didn’t improve after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

It probably won’t be a huge shock to learn that the single biggest factor in projecting the duration of your clogged ear is the cause of the blockage. Some blockages subside by themselves and fairly quickly at that; others may persist and require medical intervention.

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

When Does a Blocked Ear Become a Worry?

You will most likely begin to think about the cause of your blockage after about two days. You’ll most likely begin to think about what you’ve been doing for the past couple of days: were you involved in anything that might have resulted in water getting stuck in your ear, for example?

What about your state of health? Are you experiencing the kind of pain or discomfort (or fever) that could be related to an ear infection? If that’s the case, you might want to make an appointment.

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

  • Water trapped in the ear canal or eustachian tube: Sweat and water can become stuck in the little places inside your ear with surprising ease. (Temporary blockage can certainly occur if you sweat heavily).
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all connected, a sinus infection can produce excess fluids to become lodged in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Growths: Some types of growths, lumps, and bulges can cause a blocked feeling in your ears (and even impact your hearing).
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause fluid buildup and inflammation that ultimately blocks your ears.
  • Earwax accumulation: If earwax gets compacted or is not properly draining it can result in blockages..
  • Air pressure changes: Sometimes, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to changes in air pressure, creating the feeling of a short-term blockage in one or both ears.
  • Irreversible hearing loss: Some types of hearing loss feel a lot like a clogged ear. If your “blocked ear” is persisting longer than it should, you need to get it checked out.
  • Allergies: Various pollen allergies can spark the body’s immune system response, which in turn cause fluid and swelling.

The Fastest Way to Get Your Ears Back to Normal

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will normally go back to normal within a day or two. You might need to wait for your immune system to start working if your blockage is caused by an ear infection (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can really help). 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 quickly as possible, then, will usually involve a bit of patience (counterintuitive though it may be), and you should be able to adjust your expectations according to your actual circumstances.

Not doing anything to exacerbate the situation is your most important first step. When your ears begin feeling blocked, you might be inclined to pull out the old cotton swab and try to manually 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. If you use a cotton swab, you’re more likely to make the situation worse.

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 good clue as to what’s causing it, you might be understandably impatient. A few days is usually enough time for your body to eliminate any blockage. But it may be, as a basic rule of thumb, a prudent idea to come see us if your blockage persists for more than a week.

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

Doing no further harm first will give your body a chance to heal and clear that blockage away naturally. But when that fails, treatment may be required. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this may 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.