Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been two days. Your right ear is still totally clogged. The last time you remember hearing anything in that direction was yesterday morning. Your left ear is picking up the slack, naturally, but only being able to hear from one direction leaves you off-balance. It didn’t improve after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So will your clogged ear improve soon?

Precisely how long your blockage will last depends, not surprisingly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages recede by themselves and rather quickly at that; others could linger and require medical treatment.

As a general rule, though, if your blockage persists much longer than a week, you might want to seek out some help.

When Should I Worry About a Blocked Ear?

If you’re on the second day of a blocked ear, you might begin to think about possible causes. Maybe you’ll think about your behavior from the past two or three days: for instance, did you somehow get water in your ear?

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

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

  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can bring about fluid buildup and inflammation that ultimately obstructs your ears.
  • Growths: Certain types of growths, lumps, and bulges can cause a blocked feeling in your ears (and even interfere with your hearing).
  • Accumulation of earwax: If earwax gets compressed or is not thoroughly draining it can result in blockages..
  • Permanent loss of hearing: Some kinds of hearing loss feel a lot like a clogged ear. You should schedule an appointment if your “blocked ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid buildup in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all connected (causing a clog).
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water trapped in it: The little places inside the ear are alarmingly efficient at trapping sweat and water. (If you often sweat profusely, this can definitely end up blocking your ears temporarily).
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can occur when the body’s immune system kicks in – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Variations in air pressure: If the pressure in the air changes all of a sudden, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can temporarily cause blockage.

How to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal as Fast as Possible

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will normally get back to normal in a day or two. If an ear infection is behind your clogged ears, you might 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). And that may take as much as a week or two. Sinus infections sometimes last even longer.

Some patience will be required before your ears return to normal (counterintuitive though it might be), and you should be able to modify your expectations according to your actual circumstances.

The number one most important task is to not make the situation worse. When you first begin to feel like your ears are blocked, it may be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clear them out. All kinds of problems, from ear infections to hearing loss, 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 the situation worse.

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 idea what could be the cause of your blockage. In nearly all instances, your blockage will take care of itself after a few days. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things persist for more than a week or so, it might be a smart decision to come see us.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like blocked ears. And you don’t want to neglect hearing loss because, as you’ve most likely read in our other posts, it can result in a whole range of other health issues.

Being cautious not to worsen the problem will normally allow the body to take care of the situation on its own. But when that fails, intervention might be required. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the root cause of your blocked ears.

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