What is That Blocking my Ears?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now day two. Your right ear is still completely clogged. The last time you remember hearing anything on that side was yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, naturally, but only hearing from one direction is leaving you feeling off-balance. 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 probably won’t be a great shock to learn that the number one factor in projecting the duration of your clogged ear is the cause of the blockage. You might need to seek out medical attention if your blockage is not the type that clears itself up quickly.

You shouldn’t allow your blockage to linger, as a general rule, without having it examined.

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Worry?

If you’re on day two of a blocked ear, you might start thinking about potential causes. You’ll most likely start thinking about your activities over the past couple of days: for example, did you get water in your ear somehow?

You may also consider your health. Are you suffering from any symptoms of an ear infection? If that’s the scenario, you may want to schedule an appointment.

Those questions are actually just the beginning. There are plenty of potential reasons for a blocked ear:

  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all connected, a sinus infection can cause excess fluids to become stuck in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Water stuck in the eustachian tube or ear canal: Water and sweat can become trapped in the tiny areas of your ear with surprising ease. (Temporary blockage can certainly develop if you sweat profusely).
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause inflammation and fluid buildup that ultimately obstructs your ears.
  • Variations in air pressure: On occasion, your Eustachian tube can fail to adjust properly to variations in air pressure, creating the feeling of a short-term blockage in one or both ears.
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: A clogged ear and some forms of irreversible hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. If your “clogged ear” is persisting longer than it should, you need to get it checked out.
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, lumps, and bulges which can even block your ears.
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can develop when the body’s immune system kicks in – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Earwax accumulation: Earwax can cause blockages if it’s not properly draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.

The Fastest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will probably return to normal if air pressure is causing your blockage. You might have to wait for your immune system to start working if your blockage is caused by an ear infection (you may need an antibiotic to get faster relief). This could take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections sometimes stick around even longer.

Bringing your ears back to normal as quickly as you can, then, will often involve some patience (though that may feel counterintuitive), and your expectations need to be, well, adjustable.

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

If Your Ear is Still Blocked …it Might be Hearing Loss

So you may be getting a bit antsy if you still have no clue what could be the cause of your blockage. In nearly all instances, your blockage will clear itself up. But it may be, as a general rule of thumb, a prudent decision to come see us if your blockage lasts for more than a week. And treat any sudden hearing loss as an emergency.

Early indications of hearing loss can also feel like clogged ears. And as you probably understand from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can lead to other health problems, especially over time.

Doing no additional damage first will give your body a chance to heal and clear that blockage away naturally. But when that fails, intervention may be necessary. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the root cause of your blocked 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.