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Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been a couple of days. Your right ear is still totally blocked. You haven’t been able to hear anything in that direction since yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear works overtime to pick up the slack. You thought it might up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not happening. So will your clogged ear clear up soon?

Exactly how long your blockage will last depends, not unexpectedly, on what the cause of the blockage is. You may need to get medical attention if your blockage isn’t the kind that clears itself up quickly.

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

When Should I Worry About a Clogged Ear?

You will probably begin to think about the cause of your blockage after about a couple of days. Perhaps you’ll think about your behavior from the last couple of days: for example, did you get water in your ear somehow?

How about your state of health? Are you suffering from the sort of discomfort and pain (or fever) that might be related to an ear infection? You might want to make an appointment if that’s the situation.

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

  • Irreversible loss of hearing: Some kinds of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. You need to make an appointment if your “blocked ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Changes in air pressure: Occasionally, your Eustachian tube can fail to adjust properly to variations in air pressure, creating the feeling of a short-term blockage in your ear or ears.
  • Build-up of earwax: Earwax can lead to blockages if it’s not effectively draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become obstructed by fluid accumulation or inflammation from an ear infection.
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can develop when the body’s immune system goes to work – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • The eustachian tube or ear canal gets water stuck in it: The little places inside the ear are surprisingly good at trapping water and sweat. (If you tend to sweat copiously, this can definitely end up temporarily blocking your ears).
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, throat, and ears are all interconnected, a sinus infection can cause excess fluids to become stuck in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, bulges, and lumps which can even obstruct your ears.

The Fastest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will most likely go back to normal after a couple of days if the blockage is caused by air pressure. You might have to wait for your immune system to kick in 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 have been known to stick around even longer.

A bit of patience will be required before your ears return to normal (counterintuitive though it might be), and your expectations need to be, well, adjustable.

Not doing anything to aggravate the situation is the first and most important step. When you first start to feel like your ears are clogged, it might be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clean them 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 approach. You will probably make the situation worse if you use cotton swabs.

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

So, if your ear remains clogged after two days and you don’t have any really good ideas as to what’s causing it, you might be justifiably impatient. A few days is usually enough time for your body to get rid of any blockage. But the general rule of thumb is that if things persist for more than a week or so, it may be a wise idea to come in for a consultation.

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

Doing no additional harm first will allow your body a chance to mend and clean that blockage away naturally. But when that fails, treatment may be necessary. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the underlying cause of your blocked ears.

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