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Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now day two. There’s still total blockage in your right ear. You haven’t been able to hear a thing in that direction since yesterday morning. Your left ear is picking up the slack, naturally, but only being able to hear from one direction leaves you off-balance. You were hoping it would have cleared up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not the case. So, how long will your ear remain blocked?

Precisely how long your blockage will last depends, not unexpectedly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages subside by themselves and somewhat quickly at that; others may persist and require medical treatment.

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

When Does a Blocked Ear Become a Concern?

You will probably start contemplating the cause of your blockage after around two days. You’ll probably start thinking about what you’ve been doing for the last couple of days: were you involved in anything that could have resulted in water getting trapped in your ear, for instance?

What about your state of 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.

This line of questioning is only a starting point. A blocked ear could have multiple possible causes:

  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become obstructed by fluid buildup or inflammation due to an ear infection.
  • Permanent hearing loss: Some types of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. You need to schedule an appointment if your “clogged ear” persists longer than it should.
  • Air pressure variations: If the pressure in the air changes suddenly, your eustachian tube can fail to adjust which can cause temporary obstruction.
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, bulges, and lumps which can even obstruct your ears.
  • Water trapped in the ear canal or eustachian tube: Water and sweat can get stuck in the tiny places inside your ear with surprising ease. (Short-term blockage can definitely occur if you sweat heavily).
  • Accumulation of earwax: Earwax can lead to blockages if it’s not properly draining or if it becomes compacted, hardening in place.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to buildup in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can occur when the body’s immune system goes to work – in response to an allergic reaction.

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

Your ears will probably go back to normal after a couple of days if the blockage is caused by air pressure. If an ear infection is to blame for your blocked 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). This could take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections have been known to stick around even longer.

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

The number one most important task is to not make the situation worse. When you first begin to feel like your ears are plugged, it might be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clean them out. This can be a particularly dangerous strategy (cotton swabs have been known to cause all kinds of issues and difficulties, from infection to hearing loss). 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 May be Hearing Loss

So, if your ear remains clogged after two days and you don’t have any really good ideas as to what’s causing it, you might be reasonably impatient. In almost all cases, your blockage will clear itself up after a few days. But the general rule of thumb is that if things persist for more than a week or so, it might be a good choice to come in for a consultation.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like clogged ears. And you shouldn’t neglect hearing loss because, as you’ve most likely read in our other posts, it can result in a whole host of other health problems.

Doing no further harm first will allow your body an opportunity to heal and clean that blockage away naturally. But intervention could be required when those natural means do not succeed. How long that takes will vary depending on the base cause of your blocked ears.

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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.