Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been more than a day. Your right ear is still totally clogged. You haven’t been able to hear a thing in that direction since yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off-balance as your left ear works overtime to pick up the slack. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you were hoping it would. So will your blocked ear improve soon?

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

As a general rule, though, if your blockage persists, you should get some help.

When Should I Be Concerned About a Blocked Ear?

If you’re on day two of a blocked ear, you might start thinking about potential causes. You’ll most likely begin to think about your activities over the last couple of days: were you involved in anything that could have led to water getting stuck in your ear, for instance?

You might also consider your health. Are you suffering from the kind of discomfort and pain (or fever) that might be related to an ear infection? If that’s the scenario, you may want to schedule an appointment.

Those questions are truly just the beginning. There are plenty of possible causes for a blocked ear:

  • Irreversible loss of hearing: A blocked ear and some kinds of permanent hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. You should make an appointment if your “blocked ear” persists longer than it should.
  • Variations in air pressure: Once in a while, your Eustachian tube can fail to adjust properly to variations in air pressure, causing the feeling of a temporary blockage in your ear or ears.
  • Growths: Some kinds of growths, lumps, and bulges can result in a blocked feeling in your ears (and even impact your hearing).
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, throat, and ears are all connected, a sinus infection can create excess fluids to become lodged in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become clogged by fluid buildup or inflammation due to an ear infection.
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water trapped in it: Water and sweat can become trapped in the little areas of your ear with surprising ease. (Short-term blockage can certainly occur if you sweat heavily).
  • Accumulation of earwax: If earwax gets compacted or is not properly draining it can result in blockages..
  • Allergies: Certain pollen allergies can trigger the body’s immune system response, which will then generate fluid and swelling.

The Fastest Way to Get Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will probably go back to normal if the blockage is caused by air pressure. If an ear infection is behind 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 could take up to a couple of weeks. You may have to wait even longer than that if you have a sinus infection.

A bit of patience will be necessary before your ears get back to normal (though that may feel counterintuitive), and your expectations should be, well, adjustable.

Not doing anything to worsen the situation is your most important first step. When your ears begin feeling blocked, you may be tempted to pull out the old cotton swab and start trying to manually clean your ears out. All sorts of problems, from ear infections to hearing loss, can be caused by cotton swabs so this can be an especially dangerous strategy. 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 could be getting a bit antsy if it’s been a day and you still have no clue what might be causing your blockage. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things persist, it might be a wise idea to come in for a consultation. And treat any sudden hearing loss as an emergency – seek out medical attention.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like clogged ears. And as you probably understand from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can cause other health problems, especially over time.

Being careful not to worsen the issue will normally allow the body to clear up the situation on its own. But when that fails, treatment may be necessary. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this might take a varying amount of time.

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