What is That Blocking my Ears?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

You’re on day two. Your right ear is still totally clogged. You haven’t been able to hear anything on that side since yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear does double duty to compensate. It didn’t improve after a night’s sleep as you were hoping it would. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

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

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

When Should I Be Concerned About a Clogged Ear?

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

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

This line of questioning is merely a beginning. A clogged ear could have multiple potential causes:

  • Changes in air pressure: Sometimes, your Eustachian tube can fail to adjust properly to changes in air pressure, creating the feeling of a temporary blockage in one or both ears.
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water trapped in it: The little areas in the ear are alarmingly good at trapping sweat and water. (Short-term blockage can definitely develop if you sweat heavily).
  • Build-up of earwax: Earwax can cause blockages if it’s not thoroughly draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can bring about inflammation and fluid buildup that ultimately obstructs your ears.
  • Permanent loss of hearing: A blocked ear and some types of irreversible hearing loss can feel remarkably similar. You need to schedule an appointment if your “clogged ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can develop when the body’s immune system goes to work – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Growths: Certain kinds of growths, lumps, and bulges can result in a clogged feeling in your ears (and even interfere with your hearing).
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, throat, and ears are all interconnected, a sinus infection can produce excess fluids to become stuck in your ears (causing a clog).

The Fastest Way to Bring 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 may have to wait for your immune system to start working if your blockage is caused by an ear infection (you might need an antibiotic to get faster relief). And that may take as much as a week or two. You might have to wait even longer than that if you’re suffering from a sinus infection.

Bringing your ears back to normal as quickly as possible, then, will usually involve some patience (though that may feel counterintuitive), and you should be able to modify your expectations according to your actual situation.

Not doing anything to worsen the situation is your most important first step. When you first start to feel like your ears are blocked, it might be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clear them out. This can be an especially dangerous strategy (cotton swabs have been the cause of all sorts of problems and complications, from infection to loss of hearing). You will probably worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

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

So you may be getting a little antsy if a couple of days pass and you still have no clue what could be the cause of your blockage. In nearly all instances, your blockage will take care of itself after a few days. But it may be, as a general rule of thumb, a good decision 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 probably know from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can cause other health problems, especially over time.

Being cautious not to worsen the problem will normally allow the body to take care of the matter on its own. But when that fails, intervention might be necessary. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the underlying cause of your blocked ears.

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.