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Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now 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 being able to hear from a single direction leaves you feeling off-balance. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So will your blocked ear clear up soon?

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

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

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Concern?

You will probably begin to think about the cause of your blockage after around two days. Maybe you’ll examine your activities from the previous two or three days: for example, did you somehow get water in your ear?

You might also examine your health. Are you experiencing the kind of discomfort and pain (or fever) that could be related to an ear infection? You may want to make an appointment if that’s the situation.

This line of questioning is only a beginning. There are plenty of possible causes for a blocked ear:

  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can bring about inflammation and fluid buildup that eventually obstructs your ears.
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can manifest when the body’s immune system kicks in – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to buildup in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • Changes in air pressure: Occasionally, your Eustachian tube can fail to adjust properly to variations in air pressure, causing the feeling of a short-term blockage in your ear or ears.
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: A clogged ear and some forms of permanent hearing loss can feel remarkably similar. If your “clogged ear” is persisting longer than it should, you need to have it examined.
  • Water trapped in the eustachian tube or ear canal: The little places inside the ear are alarmingly good at trapping sweat and water. (Temporary blockage can certainly develop if you sweat heavily).
  • Growths: Some kinds of growths, bulges, and lumps can result in a clogged feeling in your ears (and even obstruct your hearing).
  • Build-up of earwax: If earwax becomes compressed or is not thoroughly draining it can cause blockages..

The Fastest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will most likely go back to normal after a couple of days if air pressure is causing your blockage. If an ear infection is behind your clogged 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 could take up to a couple of weeks. You may have to wait even longer than that if you’re suffering from a sinus infection.

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

Not doing anything to exacerbate the situation is the first and most important step. 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. This can be a very dangerous strategy (cotton swabs have been the cause of all sorts of problems and difficulties, from infection to hearing loss). If you use a cotton swab, you’re more likely to make things worse.

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 clue what might be the cause of your blockage. A few days is normally enough time for your body to eliminate any blockage. But it may be, as a general rule of thumb, a prudent decision to come see us if your blockage persists for more than a week.

That sensation of feeling like your ears are blocked can also be an indication of hearing loss. And as you most likely understand from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can cause other health issues, especially over time.

Doing no further harm first will give your body a chance to mend and clean that blockage away naturally. But treatment could be required when those natural means fail. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this could take a varying amount of time.

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