What is That Blocking my Ears?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

You’re on day two. Your right ear is still completely blocked. You haven’t been able to hear anything on that side since yesterday morning. Your left ear is picking up the slack, naturally, but only hearing from one direction leaves you off-balance. 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 ear remain blocked?

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

You shouldn’t let your blockage linger for longer than one week, as a rule of thumb, without having it checked.

When Does a Blocked Ear Become a Concern?

If you’re on the second day of a blocked ear, you may start thinking about possible causes. You’ll most likely start thinking about what you’ve been doing for the past couple of days: were you doing anything that could have led to water getting stuck in your ear, for instance?

How about the condition of your health? Do have any symptoms of an ear infection? You may want to make an appointment if that’s the situation.

This line of questioning is only a beginning. A blocked ear could have multiple possible causes:

  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause inflammation and fluid buildup that ultimately obstructs your ears.
  • Variations in air pressure: If the pressure in the air changes all of a sudden, your eustachian tube can fail to adjust which can cause temporary blockage.
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: A blocked ear and some forms of irreversible hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. You should schedule an appointment if your “clogged ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Earwax Build-up: If earwax becomes compressed or is not properly draining it can result in blockages..
  • The eustachian tube or ear canal gets water stuck in it: Sweat and water can become stuck in the little places inside your ear with alarming ease. (Temporary blockage can definitely develop if you sweat profusely).
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, lumps, and bulges which can even obstruct your ears.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to buildup in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all connected (causing a clog).
  • Allergies: Some pollen allergies can trigger the body’s immune system response, which will then generate fluid and swelling.

The Fastest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will usually return to normal in a day or two. If an ear infection is to blame for your blocked ears, you might have to wait until your body fights off the virus or bacteria at work (you may need an antibiotic to get faster relief). This may take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections sometimes stick around even longer.

Bringing your ears back to normal as fast as possible, then, will usually involve some patience (though that might feel counterintuitive), and your expectations need to be, well, variable.

Not doing anything to worsen the situation is the first and most important step. When you first start to feel like your ears are plugged, it might be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clean them out. This can be an especially dangerous strategy (cotton swabs have been the cause of all kinds of issues and difficulties, from infection to hearing loss). You will most likely worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

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

So you might be getting a bit antsy if a couple of days go by and you still have no idea what might be the cause of your blockage. In nearly all cases, your blockage will clear itself up after a few days. But it may be, as a general rule of thumb, a good decision to come see us if your blockage lasts for more than a week.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like blocked ears. And as you most likely understand from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can lead to other health concerns, especially over time.

Being cautious not to worsen the problem will normally allow the body to clear up the situation on its own. But treatment may be necessary when those natural means fail. How long that takes will vary depending on the base cause of your clogged ears.

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.