Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now day two. Your right ear is still totally blocked. The last time you remember hearing anything in that direction was yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, naturally, but only hearing from one direction is leaving you off-balance. You thought it might up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not the case. So will your blocked ear improve soon?

It most likely won’t be a huge shock to discover that the number one factor in predicting the duration of your clogged ear is the cause of the obstruction. You might need to get medical attention if your blockage is not the kind that clears itself up quickly.

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

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Worry?

You will probably start contemplating the cause of your blockage after about a couple of days. You’ll probably start thinking about your activities for the past couple of days: for instance, did you somehow get water in your ear?

What about the condition of your health? Do have 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 starting point. A clogged ear could have numerous possible causes:

  • Water stuck in the ear canal or eustachian tube: The tiny areas in the ear are surprisingly good at capturing sweat and water. (If you tend to sweat copiously, this can definitely end up clogging your ears temporarily).
  • 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).
  • Allergies: Various pollen allergies can spark the body’s immune system reaction, which will then generate swelling and fluid.
  • Earwax accumulation: Earwax can lead to blockages if it’s not effectively draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Variations in air pressure: On occasion, your Eustachian tube can fail to adjust properly to changes in air pressure, creating the feeling of a temporary blockage in your ear or ears.
  • Permanent loss of hearing: A blocked ear and some kinds of irreversible hearing loss can feel remarkably similar. If your “clogged ear” is persisting longer than it should, you need to get it checked out.
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can bring about fluid buildup and inflammation that ultimately obstructs your ears.
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, bulges, and lumps which can even block your ears.

The Quickest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will most likely go back to normal after a couple of days if air pressure is causing your blockage. You may need to wait for your immune system to start working if your blockage is due to an ear infection (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can really help). This may take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections sometimes stick around even longer.

Bringing your ears back to normal as fast as you can, then, will normally involve some patience (though that might feel counterintuitive), and you should be able to adjust your expectations according to your exact situation.

Not doing anything to exacerbate the situation is your most important first step. When you first begin to feel like your ears are blocked, it might be tempting to try and use cotton swabs to clean them out. All sorts of issues, from ear infections to hearing loss, can come from using 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 Might be Hearing Loss

So you might be getting a little antsy if a couple of days pass and you still have no idea what could be the cause of your blockage. In almost all cases, your blockage will clear itself up after a few days. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things persist for more than a week or so, it might be a smart idea to come see us.

That sensation of feeling like your ears are clogged can also be a sign of hearing loss. And you shouldn’t ignore hearing loss because, as you’ve most likely read in our other posts, it can result in a whole host of other health issues.

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, treatment may be required. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this might take a varying amount of time.

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