Hearing Services of Nashville

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been two days. Your right ear is still completely clogged. You haven’t been able to hear a thing on that side since yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, of course, but only hearing from a single direction leaves you off-balance. You thought it might up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not the case. So, how long will your ear remain blocked?

Precisely how long your blockage will last depends, not unexpectedly, 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 rule of thumb, however, if your blockage persists for any longer than one week, you might want to seek out some help.

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Concern?

If you’re on the second day of a clogged ear, you may start thinking about potential causes. You’ll probably start thinking about what you’ve been doing over the last couple of days: for instance, did you somehow get water in your ear?

What about the condition of your health? Are you experiencing the kind of discomfort and pain (or fever) that could be associated with an ear infection? If that’s the case, you might want to make an appointment.

Those questions are truly just the beginning. A clogged ear could have multiple potential causes:

  • Permanent hearing loss: A clogged ear and some types of irreversible hearing loss can feel remarkably similar. You need to make an appointment if your “blocked ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Growths: Some types of growths, lumps, and bulges can result in a clogged feeling in your ears (and even interfere with your hearing).
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause inflammation and fluid buildup that ultimately blocks your ears.
  • Water trapped in the ear canal or eustachian tube: The little places inside the ear are alarmingly good at capturing sweat and water. (If you often sweat copiously, this can definitely end up clogging your ears temporarily).
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can manifest when the body’s immune system goes to work – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Build-up of earwax: Earwax can lead to blockages if it’s not effectively draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all connected, a sinus infection can cause excess fluids to become stuck in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Air pressure changes: If the pressure in the air changes abruptly, your eustachian tube can fail to adjust which can cause temporary obstruction.

How to Get Your Ears Back to Normal as Fast as Possible

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will usually return to normal in a day or two. 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 (you may need an antibiotic to get faster relief). This could take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections have been known to stick around even longer.

Getting your ears back to normal as rapidly as possible, then, will usually involve some patience (counterintuitive though it might be), and your expectations should be, well, variable.

Not doing anything to aggravate the situation is your most important first step. When your ears begin to feel clogged, you might be inclined to take out the old cotton swab and attempt to manually clean things out. All sorts of issues, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be a particularly dangerous approach. If you use a cotton swab, you’re probably going to make the situation worse.

If Your Ear is Still Blocked After a Week…it Might be Hearing Loss

So, if your ear is still blocked after two days and you don’t have any really good ideas as to what’s causing it, you may be understandably impatient. In nearly all instances, your blockage will clear itself up after a few days. But it might be, as a general rule of thumb, a prudent idea to come see us if your blockage lasts for more than a week.

That feeling of clogged ears can also be a sign of hearing loss. And as you most likely understand from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can cause other health problems, especially over time.

Being cautious not to worsen the issue will usually allow the body to take care of the situation on its own. But when that fails, intervention could be necessary. How long that takes will vary depending on the underlying cause of your blocked ears.

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