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Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been two days. Your right ear is still totally clogged. The last time you were able to hear anything on that side was yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, naturally, but only being able to hear from one direction leaves you off-balance. 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. Some blockages subside by themselves and fairly quickly at that; others may persist and call for medical intervention.

As a general rule, however, if your blockage persists for any longer than a week, you may want to seek out some help.

When Does a Blocked Ear Become a Concern?

If you’re on day two of a blocked ear, you might start thinking about possible causes. Perhaps you’ll examine your activities from the last two or three days: were you involved in anything that might have led to water getting stuck in your ear, for example?

You may also think about your health. Are you experiencing the sort of pain or discomfort (or fever) that might be linked to an ear infection? You may want to make an appointment if that’s the situation.

Those questions are truly just the beginning. A blocked ear could have numerous potential causes:

  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, bulges, and lumps which can even block your ears.
  • Accumulation of earwax: If earwax becomes compacted or is not properly draining it can cause blockages..
  • Changes in air pressure: If the pressure in the air changes abruptly, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can temporarily cause obstruction.
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: A blocked ear and some types of irreversible hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. You should schedule an appointment if your “blocked ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to buildup in your ears because your ears, nose and throat are all connected (causing a clog).
  • Allergies: Certain pollen allergies can trigger the body’s immune system reaction, which in turn produces fluid and swelling.
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become blocked by fluid buildup 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 little areas of your ear with alarming ease. (If you tend to sweat profusely, this can certainly end up blocking your ears temporarily).

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 need to wait for your immune system to kick in if your blockage is caused by an ear infection (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can be very helpful). And that may take up to a week or two. Sinus infections have been known to last even longer.

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

The number one most important job is to not make the situation worse. When your ears start to feel clogged, you might be tempted to take out the old cotton swab and attempt to manually clear things out. This can be a very hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been known to cause all sorts of issues and difficulties, from infection to hearing loss). You will most likely make the situation worse if you use cotton swabs.

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

So you could be getting a bit antsy if a couple of days go by and you still have no clue what could be the cause of your blockage. In almost all instances, your blockage will take care of itself after a few days. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things last for more than a week or so, it may be a smart idea to come in for a consultation.

That feeling of blocked ears can also be an indication of hearing loss. And you don’t want to ignore hearing loss because, as you’ve probably read in our other posts, it can cause a whole host of other health concerns.

Doing no additional damage first will allow your body an opportunity to heal and clear that blockage away naturally. But when that fails, intervention might be required. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this might take a varying amount of time.

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