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Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

You’re on day two. Your right ear is still completely blocked. You haven’t been able to hear a thing on that side since yesterday morning. Your left ear is picking up the slack, naturally, but only hearing from one direction leaves you off-balance. It didn’t improve after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So, how long will your ear remain clogged?

It most likely won’t be a huge surprise to find out that the single biggest variable in projecting the duration of your clogged ear will be the cause of the blockage. Some blockages recede on their own and rather quickly at that; others may linger and require medical intervention.

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

When Should I Worry About a Blocked Ear?

You will most likely start contemplating the reason for your blockage after around a couple of days. Perhaps you’ll think about your behavior from the last two or three days: for example, did you somehow get water in your ear?

How about your state of health? Do have any symptoms of an ear infection? You might want to schedule an appointment if that’s the case.

This line of questioning is only a starting point. There are plenty of possible reasons for a blocked ear:

  • Permanent hearing loss: A clogged ear and some kinds of irreversible hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. You need to make an appointment if your “clogged ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Water trapped in the eustachian tube or ear canal: The tiny areas in the ear are surprisingly good at capturing water and sweat. (If you often sweat profusely, this can certainly end up blocking your ears temporarily).
  • Changes in air pressure: On occasion, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to variations in air pressure, creating the feeling of a short-term blockage in your ear or ears.
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can manifest when the body’s immune system goes to work – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can bring about fluid buildup and inflammation that eventually obstructs your ears.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all connected, a sinus infection can create excess fluids to become stuck in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Growths: Certain types of growths, bulges, and lumps can result in a clogged feeling in your ears (and even obstruct your hearing).
  • Earwax Build-up: Earwax can cause blockages if it’s not thoroughly draining or if it becomes compacted, hardening in place.

The Quickest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will most likely return to normal after a couple of days if air pressure is causing your blockage. If an ear infection is behind your blocked ears, you may have to wait until your body fights off the virus or bacteria at work (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can really help). And that might 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.

Getting your ears back to normal as fast as you can, then, will often involve some patience (counterintuitive though it might be), and your expectations should be, well, variable.

Your first and most important task is to not make the situation worse. When you first begin to feel like your ears are plugged, it might be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clean them out. This can be an especially 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 the situation worse.

If Your Ear is Still Clogged After a Week…it Could be 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 causing your blockage. A few days is normally enough time for your body to clear up any blockage. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things persist for more than a week or so, it may be a smart choice to come in for a consultation.

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

Doing no further harm first will allow your body a chance to mend and clean that blockage away naturally. But treatment may be needed when those natural means fail. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this may take a varying amount of time.

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