Why Are my Ears Blocked?


Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now day two. Your right ear is still completely blocked. 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. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you were hoping it would. So, how long will your ear remain blocked?

It most likely won’t be a big shock to find out that the number one factor in predicting the duration of your clogged ear will be the cause of the blockage. You could need to get medical attention if your blockage isn’t the kind that clears itself up quickly.

You shouldn’t allow your blockage to linger for more than a week, as a rule of thumb, without getting it examined.

When Should I Be Concerned About a Blocked Ear?

You will most likely start contemplating the reason for your blockage after around two days. Maybe you’ll think about your activities from the previous couple of days: were you doing anything that could have led to water getting trapped in your ear, for instance?

What about your state of health? Are you suffering from any symptoms of an ear infection? You may want to schedule an appointment if that’s the situation.

Those questions are actually just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of potential causes for a blocked ear:

  • Variations in air pressure: If the pressure in the air changes suddenly, your eustachian tube can fail to adjust which can cause temporary obstruction.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to buildup in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • Water trapped in the eustachian tube or ear canal: Water and sweat can become stuck in the little places inside your ear with surprising ease. (Temporary blockage can definitely occur if you sweat profusely).
  • Permanent hearing loss: Some types of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. If your “clogged ear” is lasting longer than it should, you need to have it checked out.
  • Earwax Build-up: Earwax can lead to blockages if it’s not effectively draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, lumps, and bulges which can even obstruct your ears.
  • Allergies: Various pollen allergies can spark the body’s immune system response, which will then generate swelling and fluid.
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become blocked by fluid accumulation or inflammation due to an ear infection.

The Fastest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

So, if air pressure is the culprit, your ears will normally get back to normal in a day or two. If an ear infection is behind your blocked ears, you may have to wait until your body gets rid of the virus or bacteria at work (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can really help). This could take up to a couple of weeks. You may have to wait even longer than that if you have a sinus infection.

Some patience will be necessary before your ears return to normal (counterintuitive though it may be), and your expectations need to be, well, variable.

Not doing anything to exacerbate the situation is your most important first step. When your ears begin feeling blocked, you might be inclined to pull out the old cotton swab and try to manually clean things out. This can be a particularly dangerous strategy (cotton swabs have been the cause of all kinds of problems and difficulties, from infection to loss of hearing). 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, if your ear remains blocked on day two and you don’t have any really good ideas as to what’s causing it, you may be understandably impatient. A few days is normally enough time for your body to get rid of any blockage. But it might be, as a basic rule of thumb, a prudent idea to come see us if your blockage persists for more than a week.

That feeling of blocked ears can also be a sign of hearing loss. And you shouldn’t neglect hearing loss because, as you’ve most likely read in our other posts, it can lead to a whole host of other health concerns.

Doing no additional harm first will allow your body an opportunity to mend and clear that blockage away naturally. But intervention may be required when those natural means do not succeed. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this may take a varying amount of time.

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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.

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