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Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been two days. Your right ear is still totally clogged. You haven’t been able to hear anything in that direction since yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, naturally, but only hearing from one direction is leaving you off-balance. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

Exactly how long your blockage will persist depends, not unexpectedly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages recede on their own and rather quickly at that; others may persist and call for medical intervention.

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

When Does a Blocked Ear Become a Concern?

If you’re on the second day of a blocked ear, you may begin to think about possible causes. Maybe you’ll think about your activities from the previous two or three days: were you doing anything that could have led to water getting stuck in your ear, for instance?

You may also examine your health. Are you suffering from any symptoms of an ear infection? If that’s the scenario, 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:

  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all connected, a sinus infection can create excess fluids to become lodged in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Allergies: Some pollen allergies can trigger the body’s immune system response, which will then generate fluid and swelling.
  • Air pressure variations: Occasionally, your Eustachian tube can fail to adjust properly to variations in air pressure, causing the feeling of a temporary blockage in one or both ears.
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water stuck in it: Water and sweat can become stuck in the tiny places inside your ear with surprising ease. (If you often sweat copiously, this can certainly end up clogging your ears temporarily).
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become clogged by fluid accumulation or inflammation from an ear infection.
  • Irreversible hearing loss: A blocked ear and some kinds of irreversible hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. You need to schedule an appointment if your “clogged ear” persists longer than it should.
  • Growths: Some kinds of growths, lumps, and bulges can cause a blocked feeling in your ears (and even obstruct your hearing).
  • Earwax accumulation: Earwax can result in blockages if it’s not effectively draining or if it becomes compacted, hardening in place.

The Fastest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will most likely return to normal after a couple of days if air pressure is causing your blockage. If an ear infection is behind your clogged ears, you might have to wait until your body fights off the virus or bacteria at work (you might need an antibiotic to speed things up). And that could take up to a week or two. Sinus infections have been known to last even longer.

Bringing your ears back to normal as quickly as you can, then, will usually involve some patience (counterintuitive though it may be), and you need to be able to change your expectations based on your actual circumstances.

Not doing anything to aggravate the situation is your most important first step. When your ears begin feeling clogged, you might be inclined to take out the old cotton swab and attempt to manually clear things out. All sorts 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 the situation worse.

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

So you may be getting a bit antsy if a couple of days pass and you still have no idea what might be causing your blockage. In nearly all cases, your blockage will clear itself up after a few days. But it might be, as a basic rule of thumb, a prudent idea to come see us if your blockage persists for more than a week.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like clogged ears. And as you most likely know from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can cause other health concerns, particularly over time.

Being cautious not to worsen the issue will normally permit the body to clear up the situation on its own. But treatment could be necessary when those natural means fail. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this could take a varying amount of time.

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