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Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

You’re on day two. There’s still total obstruction 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 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 ear remain clogged?

It probably won’t be a huge shock to discover that the number one variable in projecting the duration of your blocked ear is the cause of the blockage. Some blockages recede on their own and somewhat quickly at that; others could persist and require medical intervention.

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

When Should I Be Concerned About a Clogged Ear?

If you’re on the second day of a blocked ear, you might start thinking about possible causes. Perhaps you’ll think about your behavior from the past two or three days: were you involved in anything that could have resulted in water getting trapped in your ear, for example?

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

Those questions are truly just the beginning. There are plenty of possible reasons for a blocked ear:

  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become obstructed by fluid buildup or inflammation due to an ear infection.
  • Allergies: Various pollen allergies can spark the body’s immune system reaction, which in turn cause fluid and swelling.
  • Earwax Build-up: Earwax can cause blockages if it’s not properly draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Water trapped in the eustachian tube or ear canal: The little areas in the ear are alarmingly good at trapping sweat and water. (Short-term blockage can definitely occur if you sweat profusely).
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: A blocked ear and some forms of irreversible hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. If your “clogged ear” is lasting longer than it should, you need to get it examined.
  • Growths: Some types of growths, lumps, and bulges can cause a blocked feeling in your ears (and even impact your hearing).
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid buildup in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all connected (causing a clog).
  • Air pressure changes: If the pressure in the air changes all of a sudden, your eustachian tube can fail to adjust which can temporarily cause obstruction.

How to Get Your Ears Back to Normal as Quickly as You Can

Your ears will probably go back to normal after a couple of days if the blockage is caused by air pressure. You may have to wait for your immune system to start working if your blockage is due to an ear infection (you might need an antibiotic to speed things up). And that might take as much as a week or two. Sinus infections sometimes stick around even longer.

Some patience will be needed before your ears return to normal (though that might seem counterintuitive), and your expectations should be, well, adjustable.

The number one most important task is to not make the situation worse. When your ears begin to feel clogged, you may be inclined to pull out the old cotton swab and attempt to manually clear things out. All sorts of problems, from ear infections to hearing loss, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be an especially dangerous strategy. If you use a cotton swab, you’re probably going to make things worse.

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

So, if your ear remains blocked on day two and you don’t have any really good ideas as to what’s causing it, you may be reasonably impatient. A few days is usually enough time for your body to get rid of any blockage. But it might be, as a general rule of thumb, a prudent decision to come see us if your blockage lasts for more than a week.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like blocked ears. And as you probably know from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can result in other health issues, particularly over time.

Being careful not to worsen the problem will normally allow the body to clear up the matter on its own. But when that fails, treatment could be necessary. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the base cause of your clogged ears.

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