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Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been two days. There’s still complete blockage in your right ear. You haven’t been able to hear a thing on that side since yesterday morning. Your left ear is picking up the slack, of course, but only hearing from one direction is leaving you feeling off-balance. You were hoping it would have cleared up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not happening. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

Exactly how long your blockage will last depends, not unexpectedly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages recede by themselves and somewhat quickly at that; others may linger and call for medical intervention.

You shouldn’t allow your blockage to linger for more than one week, as a general rule, without having it examined.

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Worry?

You will most likely begin to think about the reason for your blockage after around a couple of days. You’ll probably start thinking about what you’ve been doing over the past couple of days: were you doing anything that might have led to water getting stuck in your ear, for instance?

How about the condition of your health? Are you dealing with the kind of pain or discomfort (or fever) that could be connected to an ear infection? You might want to make an appointment if that’s the case.

Those questions are truly just the beginning. A clogged ear could have multiple potential causes:

  • Permanent hearing loss: Some types of hearing loss feel a lot like a clogged ear. You should make an appointment if your “blocked ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, lumps, and bulges which can even block your ears.
  • Allergies: Some pollen allergies can trigger the body’s immune system reaction, which will then generate swelling and fluid.
  • The eustachian tube or ear canal gets water trapped in it: The tiny places inside the ear are surprisingly good at trapping water and sweat. (Temporary blockage can certainly occur if you sweat heavily).
  • Accumulation of earwax: If earwax becomes compacted or is not thoroughly draining it can cause blockages..
  • Air pressure changes: If the pressure in the air changes abruptly, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can cause temporary obstruction.
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can bring about inflammation and fluid buildup that ultimately obstructs your ears.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid accumulate in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all connected (causing a clog).

The Fastest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

So, if air pressure is the culprit, your ears will normally go back to normal in a day or two. You might need to wait for your immune system to kick in if your blockage is caused by an ear infection (you may need an antibiotic to speed things up). This could take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections sometimes stick around even longer.

Getting your ears back to normal as fast as you can, then, will usually involve a bit of patience (though that might seem counterintuitive), and your expectations should be, well, adjustable.

Your first and most important job is to not cause the situation to get worse. When your ears start feeling blocked, you may be inclined to take out the old cotton swab and start trying to physically clean things out. This can be a very dangerous strategy (cotton swabs have been the cause of all sorts of issues and difficulties, from infection to loss of hearing). You will most likely worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

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

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

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

Doing no additional damage first will allow your body a chance to mend and clear that blockage away naturally. But treatment could be necessary when those natural means fail. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this may take a varying amount of time.

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