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Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been a couple of days. Your right ear is still completely clogged. The last time you remember hearing anything on that side was yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, naturally, but only hearing from a single direction leaves you off-balance. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you were hoping it would. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

Exactly how long your blockage will persist depends, not surprisingly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages subside on their own and fairly quickly at that; others could persist and require medical intervention.

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

When Should I Be Concerned About a Blocked Ear?

You will probably begin to think about the reason for your blockage after about two days. Maybe you’ll think about your behavior from the past couple of days: for instance, did you get water in your ear somehow?

You may also examine your health. Do have any symptoms of an ear infection? You may want to make an appointment if that’s the case.

Those questions are truly just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of potential causes for a clogged ear:

  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can bring about fluid buildup and inflammation that ultimately blocks your ears.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all interconnected, a sinus infection can cause excess fluids to become stuck in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can develop when the body’s immune system goes to work – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Water trapped in the ear canal or eustachian tube: The tiny areas in the ear are alarmingly good at trapping water and sweat. (Short-term blockage can certainly occur if you sweat heavily).
  • Accumulation of earwax: Earwax can cause blockages if it’s not effectively draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Changes in air pressure: If the pressure in the air changes suddenly, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can cause temporary obstruction.
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, bulges, and lumps which can even obstruct your ears.
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: Some kinds of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. You should schedule an appointment if your “blocked ear” lasts longer than it should.

The Quickest Way to Get Your Ears Back to Normal

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will normally get back to normal in a day or two. You may have to wait for your immune system to kick in if your blockage is due to an ear infection (you might need an antibiotic to speed things up). And that may take up to a week or two. You might have to wait even longer than that if you have a sinus infection.

Some patience will be needed before your ears get back to normal (though that may feel counterintuitive), and you need to be able to modify your expectations according to your actual situation.

The number one most important job is to not cause the situation to get worse. When your ears start to feel clogged, you may be tempted to take out the old cotton swab and start trying to physically clean things out. All sorts of problems, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can be caused by cotton swabs so this can be an extremely dangerous approach. If you use a cotton swab, you’re more likely to make things worse.

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

So you could be getting a bit antsy if a couple of days go by and you still have no idea what could be causing your blockage. A few days is normally 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 smart idea to come see us.

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

Being careful not to worsen the issue will usually allow the body to clear up the situation on its own. But treatment could 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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