What is That Clogging my Ears?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now day two. There’s still complete obstruction in your right ear. You haven’t been able to hear anything in that direction since yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear does double duty to pick up the slack. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you were hoping it would. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

Precisely how long your blockage will last depends, not unexpectedly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages subside on their own and rather quickly at that; others might linger and call for medical intervention.

As a rule of thumb, though, if your blockage persists for any longer than one week, you may want to get some help.

When Should I Worry About a Clogged Ear?

If you’re on the second day of a blocked ear, you may start thinking about possible causes. Perhaps you’ll examine your behavior from the previous two or three days: were you doing anything that could have led to water getting stuck in your ear, for instance?

What about your state of health? Are you dealing with the sort 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 actually just the tip of the iceberg. A clogged ear could have numerous potential causes:

  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to buildup in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become clogged by fluid accumulation or inflammation due to an ear infection.
  • Permanent hearing loss: 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.
  • Growths: Certain kinds of growths, lumps, and bulges can result in a blocked feeling in your ears (and even obstruct your hearing).
  • Air pressure variations: If the pressure in the air changes abruptly, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can cause temporary obstruction.
  • Accumulation of earwax: If earwax becomes compressed or is not thoroughly draining it can cause blockages..
  • Allergies: Some pollen allergies can trigger the body’s immune system response, which will then cause fluid and swelling.
  • Water stuck in the eustachian tube or ear canal: The little areas in the ear are surprisingly efficient at capturing water and sweat. (If you often sweat copiously, this can definitely end up temporarily blocking your ears).

The Quickest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will most likely return to normal after a couple of days if air pressure is causing your blockage. If an ear infection is behind your blocked ears, you may have to wait until your body gets rid of 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 have a sinus infection.

Getting your ears back to normal as fast as you can, then, will normally involve some patience (though that may feel counterintuitive), and your expectations should be, well, adjustable.

Not doing anything to worsen the situation is the first and most important step. When you first start to feel like your ears are clogged, it might be tempting to try and use cotton swabs to clean them out. All sorts of problems, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be an especially dangerous strategy. You will probably worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

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

So, if your ear remains clogged after two days and you don’t have any really great clue as to what’s causing it, you might be justifiably impatient. A few days is normally enough time for your body to eliminate any blockage. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things last for more than a week or so, it may be a smart decision to come see us.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like clogged ears. And you shouldn’t ignore hearing loss because, as you’ve probably read in our other posts, it can result in a whole host of other health problems.

Being careful not to worsen the problem will usually permit the body to take care of the matter on its own. But when that fails, treatment might be necessary. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this may 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.