Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been a couple of days. There’s still total obstruction in your right ear. 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 compensate. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

It probably won’t be a big shock to find out that the number one factor in projecting the duration of your blocked ear is the cause of the blockage. Some blockages go away by themselves and rather quickly at that; others could linger and call for medical treatment.

As a general rule, though, if your blockage persists for any longer than a week, you might want to get some help.

When Should I Worry About a Blocked Ear?

If you’re on day two of a blocked ear, you might begin to think about potential causes. Perhaps you’ll think about your activities from the past two or three days: were you involved in anything that might have led to water getting stuck in your ear, for instance?

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

Those questions are actually just the beginning. A blocked ear could have numerous possible causes:

  • Irreversible hearing loss: Some forms of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. If your “clogged ear” is lasting longer than it should, you need to get it examined.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to accumulate in your ears because your ears, nose and throat are all connected (causing a clog).
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become obstructed by fluid buildup or inflammation from an ear infection.
  • Air pressure variations: If the pressure in the air changes abruptly, your eustachian tube can fail to adjust which can temporarily cause blockage.
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can occur when the body’s immune system kicks in – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water trapped in it: Water and sweat can become trapped in the tiny areas of your ear with alarming ease. (Temporary blockage can certainly develop if you sweat heavily).
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, lumps, and bulges which can even block your ears.
  • Accumulation of earwax: If earwax becomes compressed or is not properly draining it can result in blockages..

The Quickest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will probably return to normal after a couple of days if air pressure is causing your blockage. If an ear infection is behind your blocked ears, you might have to wait until your body gets rid of the virus or bacteria at work (you may need an antibiotic to get faster relief). And that might take as much as a week or two. You might have to wait even longer than that if you’re suffering from a sinus infection.

Some patience will be required before your ears return to normal (counterintuitive though it may be), and your expectations should be, well, adjustable.

Not doing anything to aggravate the situation is your most important first step. When you first start to feel like your ears are blocked, it might be tempting to try and use cotton swabs to clean them out. All sorts of issues, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be a particularly dangerous strategy. You will most likely 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 idea what might be causing your blockage. In almost all instances, your blockage will take care of itself after a few days. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things persist for more than a week or so, it may be a good decision to come see us.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like blocked ears. And as you most likely know from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can cause other health problems, especially over time.

Being cautious not to worsen the problem will normally allow the body to take care of the situation on its own. But intervention may be required when those natural means do not succeed. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the underlying cause of your clogged ears.

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