Coastal Hearing Aid Center - Encinitas, CA

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been two days. There’s still total obstruction in your right ear. You haven’t been able to hear a thing in that direction since yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, naturally, but only being able to hear from a single direction leaves you feeling off-balance. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you were hoping it would. So, how long will your ear remain blocked?

Exactly how long your blockage will last depends, not unexpectedly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages recede on their own and rather quickly at that; others may persist and require medical intervention.

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

When Does a Blocked Ear Become a Concern?

You will probably start contemplating the cause of your blockage after around two days. You’ll probably start thinking about what you’ve been doing over the last couple of days: were you involved in anything that could have resulted in water getting stuck in your ear, for instance?

How about your state of health? Are you dealing with the sort of pain or discomfort (or fever) that might be connected to an ear infection? If that’s the case, you might want to make an appointment.

Those questions are actually just the beginning. There are plenty of potential causes for a clogged ear:

  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become clogged by fluid accumulation or inflammation from an ear infection.
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water stuck in it: Sweat and water can get stuck in the tiny places inside your ear with alarming ease. (If you often sweat profusely, this can certainly end up blocking your ears temporarily).
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid accumulate in your ears because your ears, nose and throat are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • Build-up of earwax: If earwax gets compressed or is not properly draining it can result in blockages..
  • Growths: Some kinds of growths, lumps, and bulges can cause a blocked feeling in your ears (and even obstruct your hearing).
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can manifest when the body’s immune system kicks in – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Permanent loss of hearing: Some kinds of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. If your “blocked ear” is persisting longer than it should, you need to have it examined.
  • 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.

The Quickest Way to Get Your Ears Back to Normal

So, if air pressure is the culprit, your ears will normally get back 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 (you may need an antibiotic to speed things up). And that might take as much as a week or two. Sinus infections have been known to last even longer.

A bit of patience will be needed before your ears get back to normal (counterintuitive though it might be), and your expectations should be, well, adjustable.

The number one most important task is to not make the situation worse. When your ears start to feel blocked, you might be inclined to take out the old cotton swab and start trying to physically clean your ears out. This can be a very hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been the cause of all kinds of issues and complications, from infection to hearing loss). If you use a cotton swab, you’re probably going to make the situation worse.

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 causing your blockage. A few days is usually enough time for your body to clear up any blockage. But it may be, as a basic rule of thumb, a prudent decision to come see us if your blockage persists for more than a week.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like blocked ears. And you don’t want to ignore hearing loss because, as you’ve most likely read in our other posts, it can cause a whole range of other health issues.

Being cautious not to worsen the problem will normally allow the body to take care of the situation on its own. But treatment could be required when those natural means do not succeed. How long that takes will vary depending on the underlying cause of your clogged ears.

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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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