My Ears Are Clogged – What is That?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been two days. There’s still complete obstruction in your right ear. The last time you were able to hear anything in that direction was yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear does double duty to compensate. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So, how long will your ear remain blocked?

It probably won’t be a huge shock to learn that the number one variable in predicting the duration of your clogged ear is the cause of the obstruction. Some blockages go away on their own and somewhat quickly at that; others could linger and call for medical intervention.

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

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Concern?

You will most likely begin to think about the cause of your blockage after around two days. Maybe you’ll examine your behavior from the previous couple of days: for example, did you somehow get water in your ear?

You may also examine your health. Do have any symptoms of an ear infection? If that’s the scenario, you may want to schedule an appointment.

Those questions are really just the tip of the iceberg. A clogged ear could have multiple potential causes:

  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can develop when the body’s immune system kicks in – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Permanent loss of hearing: 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.
  • Water trapped in the eustachian tube or ear canal: The tiny areas in the ear are alarmingly good at capturing sweat and water. (If you tend to sweat copiously, this can definitely end up temporarily blocking your ears).
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, bulges, and lumps which can even block your ears.
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause inflammation and fluid buildup that ultimately obstructs your ears.
  • Earwax accumulation: If earwax becomes compressed or is not thoroughly draining it can result in blockages..
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, throat, and ears are all connected, a sinus infection can cause excess fluids to become lodged in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Changes in air pressure: If the pressure in the air changes all of a sudden, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can cause temporary blockage.

How to Get Your Ears Back to Normal as Fast as Possible

Your ears will most likely return to normal after a couple of days if the blockage is caused by air pressure. If an ear infection is to blame for your blocked ears, you might have to wait until your body fights off the virus or bacteria at work (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can be very helpful). This may take up to a couple of weeks. You might have to wait even longer than that if you’re suffering from a sinus infection.

A bit of patience will be necessary before your ears get back to normal (counterintuitive though it might be), and you need to be able to change your expectations according to your actual situation.

Your first and most important task is to not make the situation worse. When your ears start feeling blocked, you might be tempted to take out the old cotton swab and start trying to manually clean your ears out. This can be a particularly hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been known to cause all kinds of problems and complications, from infection to hearing loss). If you use a cotton swab, you’re more likely to make things worse.

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

So, if your ear remains clogged after two days and you don’t have any really great clue as to what’s causing it, you may be justifiably impatient. In almost all cases, your blockage will clear itself up after a few days. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things last for more than a week or so, it might be a good idea to come in for a consultation.

Early indications of hearing loss can also feel like blocked ears. And as you probably know from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can lead to other health concerns, particularly over time.

Being careful not to worsen the problem will usually allow the body to clear up the situation on its own. But intervention might be needed when those natural means do not succeed. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the root cause of your clogged 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.


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