What is That Clogging my Ears?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been a couple of days. Your right ear is still completely clogged. 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 compensate. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

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

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

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Worry?

You will probably begin to think about the cause of your blockage after around a couple of days. You’ll probably begin to think about your activities over the last couple of days: were you doing anything that might have led to water getting trapped in your ear, for instance?

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

Those questions are really just the beginning. A blocked ear could have multiple possible causes:

  • Air pressure changes: If the pressure in the air changes all of a sudden, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can temporarily cause blockage.
  • Growths: Some types of growths, bulges, and lumps can cause a clogged feeling in your ears (and even obstruct your hearing).
  • The eustachian tube or ear canal gets water trapped in it: The little areas in the ear are surprisingly good at trapping water and sweat. (If you often sweat profusely, this can certainly end up temporarily blocking your ears).
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can occur when the body’s immune system kicks in – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid buildup in your ears because your ears, nose and throat are all connected (causing a clog).
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can bring about inflammation and fluid buildup that ultimately obstructs your ears.
  • Accumulation of earwax: If earwax gets compressed or is not thoroughly draining it can cause blockages..
  • Permanent hearing impairment: A clogged ear and some kinds of irreversible hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. You should schedule an appointment if your “blocked ear” lasts longer than it should.

The Fastest Way to Get Your Ears Back to Normal

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will usually return to normal in a day or two. If an ear infection is to blame for your clogged 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 be very helpful). This may take up to a couple of weeks. You may have to wait even longer than that if you’re suffering from a sinus infection.

Getting your ears back to normal as fast as possible, then, will usually involve a bit of patience (counterintuitive though it may be), and your expectations should be, well, variable.

Not doing anything to exacerbate the situation is your most important first step. When your ears start feeling blocked, you may be tempted to take out the old cotton swab and attempt to manually clear things out. All sorts of problems, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can be caused by cotton swabs so this can be a particularly dangerous strategy. You will most likely worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

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

So you might be getting a little antsy if a couple of days pass and you still have no idea what might be the cause of your blockage. A few days is usually enough time for your body to eliminate any blockage. But the general rule of thumb is that if things persist for more than a week or so, it might be a good idea to come see us.

That feeling of blocked ears can also be an indication of hearing loss. And as you probably understand from our other posts, untreated hearing loss can result in other health problems, particularly over time.

Doing no further damage first will allow your body an opportunity to heal and clear that blockage away naturally. But intervention might be needed when those natural means do not succeed. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this could take a varying amount of time.

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.