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Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now day two. There’s still total obstruction in your right ear. The last time you were able to hear anything on that side was yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear does double duty to pick up the slack. You were hoping it would have cleared up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not the case. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

It most likely won’t be a big shock to learn that the single biggest factor in predicting the duration of your clogged ear will be the cause of the blockage. You could need to seek out medical attention if your blockage isn’t the type that clears itself up quickly.

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

When Should I Worry About a Clogged Ear?

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

You may also think about your health. Are you suffering from the kind of pain or discomfort (or fever) that might be linked to an ear infection? If that’s the case, you may want to make an appointment.

This line of questioning is only a starting point. There are plenty of possible reasons for a blocked ear:

  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid buildup in your ears because your ears, nose and throat are all connected (causing a clog).
  • Irreversible hearing impairment: A clogged ear and some kinds of irreversible hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. You need to make an appointment if your “blocked ear” persists longer than it should.
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause fluid buildup and inflammation that eventually obstructs your ears.
  • Allergies: Various pollen allergies can spark the body’s immune system reaction, which in turn generate swelling and fluid.
  • Air pressure changes: If the pressure in the air changes abruptly, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can temporarily cause blockage.
  • Water stuck in the ear canal or eustachian tube: The little places inside the ear are surprisingly efficient at trapping sweat and water. (If you tend to sweat copiously, this can definitely end up temporarily blocking your ears).
  • Build-up of earwax: Earwax can lead to blockages if it’s not properly draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, bulges, and lumps which can even obstruct your ears.

How to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal as Quickly as You Can

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will usually get back to normal within a day or two. 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 really help). And that could take up to a week or two. Sinus infections sometimes last even longer.

A bit of patience will be required before your ears return to normal (though that might feel counterintuitive), and your expectations need to be, well, adjustable.

The number one most important job is to not make the situation worse. When you first begin to feel like your ears are plugged, it might be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clear them out. All kinds of problems, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be an extremely dangerous approach. If you use a cotton swab, you’re more likely to make things worse.

If Your Ear is Still Clogged After a Week…it May be Hearing Loss

So, if your ear is still clogged on day two and you don’t have any really good clue as to what’s causing it, you might be understandably impatient. In nearly all instances, your blockage will clear itself up after a few days. But the general rule of thumb is that if things last for more than a week or so, it may be a good choice to come see us.

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

Being careful not to worsen the issue will normally permit the body to clear up the situation on its own. But when that fails, intervention might be necessary. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the underlying cause of your clogged ears.

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