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Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been a couple of days. There’s still complete obstruction in your right ear. The last time you were able to hear anything on that side was 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 improve 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 great surprise to discover that the single biggest factor in predicting the duration of your blocked ear will be the cause of the blockage. You might need to seek out medical attention if your blockage is not the kind that clears itself up quickly.

As a rule of thumb, though, if your blockage lasts much longer than one week, you might want to get some help.

When Should I Worry About a Blocked Ear?

You will probably start contemplating the reason for your blockage after around a couple of days. Perhaps you’ll think about your behavior from the past couple of days: for instance, did you get water in your ear somehow?

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

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

  • Changes in air pressure: Occasionally, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to variations in air pressure, causing the feeling of a temporary blockage in one or both ears.
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can develop when the body’s immune system goes to work – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • The eustachian tube or ear canal gets water trapped in it: Water and sweat can get stuck in the tiny places inside your ear with surprising ease. (Temporary blockage can definitely occur if you sweat heavily).
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become clogged by fluid accumulation or inflammation from an ear infection.
  • Permanent hearing impairment: Some types of hearing loss feel a lot like a clogged ear. If your “clogged ear” is lasting longer than it should, you need to get it checked out.
  • Build-up of earwax: If earwax gets compressed or is not thoroughly draining it can result in blockages..
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid buildup in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, lumps, and bulges which can even block your ears.

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

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will normally get back to normal within a day or two. You might have to wait for your immune system to kick in if your blockage is due to an ear infection (you may need an antibiotic to get faster relief). This may take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections sometimes last even longer.

Some patience will be necessary before your ears return to normal (counterintuitive though it might be), and you should be able to modify your expectations based on your exact situation.

Your first and most important job is to not make the situation worse. When your ears begin to feel clogged, you might be tempted to take out the old cotton swab and try to physically clean things out. This can be a particularly hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been known to cause all kinds of problems and complications, from infection to loss of hearing). You will probably worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

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

So you could be getting a bit antsy if a couple of days go by and you still have no clue what could be causing your blockage. In nearly all instances, your blockage will clear itself up after a few days. 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.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like blocked ears. And you don’t want to ignore hearing loss because, as you’ve most likely read in our other posts, it can result in a whole range of other health problems.

Being careful not to worsen the issue will usually permit the body to take care of the matter on its own. But when that fails, intervention could be required. How long that takes will vary depending on the underlying cause of your clogged ears.

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