Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been a couple of days. Your right ear is still totally blocked. You haven’t been able to hear a thing on that side 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 the case. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

Precisely how long your blockage will persist depends, not surprisingly, on what the cause of the blockage is. You could need to seek out medical attention if your blockage is not the kind that clears itself up quickly.

As a general rule, though, if your blockage lasts much longer than a week, you may want to seek out some help.

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Worry?

You will most likely start contemplating the reason for your blockage after around a couple of days. Maybe you’ll examine your activities from the last two or three days: were you doing anything that might have led to water getting trapped in your ear, for example?

You might also consider your health. Are you dealing with the sort of discomfort and pain (or fever) that may be linked to an ear infection? If that’s the scenario, you might want to make an appointment.

Those questions are actually just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of possible causes for a blocked ear:

  • Growths: Some kinds of growths, lumps, and bulges can result in a blocked feeling in your ears (and even obstruct your hearing).
  • Earwax accumulation: Earwax can lead to blockages if it’s not properly draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water trapped in it: The little areas in the ear are alarmingly efficient at capturing sweat and water. (Short-term blockage can definitely occur if you sweat heavily).
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become blocked by fluid buildup or inflammation from an ear infection.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid buildup in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • Irreversible hearing impairment: A clogged ear and some forms of irreversible hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. You need to make an appointment if your “clogged ear” persists longer than it should.
  • Allergies: Some pollen allergies can spark the body’s immune system reaction, which in turn cause swelling and fluid.
  • Changes in air pressure: If the pressure in the air changes suddenly, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can temporarily cause blockage.

The Fastest Way to Get Your Ears Back to Normal

So, if air pressure is the culprit, your ears will normally return to normal within a day or two. If an ear infection is to blame for your blocked ears, you might have to wait until your body gets rid of the virus or bacteria at work (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can be very helpful). And that may take as much as a week or two. Sinus infections sometimes stick around even longer.

Some patience will be needed before your ears return to normal (counterintuitive though it may be), and you need to be able to adjust your expectations based on your actual circumstances.

Not doing anything to exacerbate the situation is the first and most important step. When your ears start to feel clogged, you may be inclined to take out the old cotton swab and start trying to physically clear things out. All kinds of problems, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be an extremely dangerous strategy. If you use a cotton swab, you’re more likely to make the situation worse.

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

So you could be getting a little antsy if a couple of days pass and you still have no clue what might be the cause of your blockage. A few days is usually enough time for your body to clear up any blockage. But the general rule of thumb is that if things persist for more than a week or so, it might be a smart choice to come in for a consultation.

That feeling of clogged ears can also be an indication of hearing loss. And you shouldn’t neglect hearing loss because, as you’ve probably read in our other posts, it can lead to a whole range of other health problems.

Doing no additional harm first will allow your body a chance to heal and clear that blockage away naturally. But when that fails, intervention may be required. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this might take a varying amount of time.

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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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