Audiology & Hearing Care of SWFL - Bonita Springs, FL

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

You’re on day two. Your right ear is still completely blocked. The last time you remember hearing anything in that direction was yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear works overtime to pick up the slack. 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?

It probably won’t be a great shock to discover that the single biggest factor in projecting the duration of your blocked ear is the cause of the obstruction. You may need to get medical attention if your blockage isn’t the type that clears itself up quickly.

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

When Does a Blocked Ear Become a Concern?

If you’re on day two of a blocked ear, you may begin to think about possible causes. You’ll most likely start thinking about your activities for the last couple of days: were you involved in anything that could have resulted in water getting trapped in your ear, for instance?

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

Those questions are truly just the tip of the iceberg. A clogged ear could have multiple potential causes:

  • Water stuck in the eustachian tube or ear canal: Water and sweat can get trapped in the tiny areas of your ear with surprising ease. (Short-term blockage can definitely develop if you sweat heavily).
  • Accumulation of earwax: Earwax can result in blockages if it’s not effectively draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, lumps, and bulges which can even block your ears.
  • Changes in air pressure: If the pressure in the air changes suddenly, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can temporarily cause blockage.
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become blocked by fluid accumulation or inflammation from an ear infection.
  • Allergies: Various pollen allergies can spark the body’s immune system response, which will then produces fluid and swelling.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to buildup in your ears because your ears, nose and throat are all connected (causing a clog).
  • Permanent hearing loss: Some forms of hearing loss feel a lot like a clogged ear. If your “blocked ear” is persisting longer than it should, you need to have it checked out.

The Fastest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will usually return to normal within a day or two. You may need to wait for your immune system to start working if your blockage is caused by an ear infection (you might need an antibiotic to speed things up). This may take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections have been known to stick around even longer.

Some patience will be needed before your ears return to normal (counterintuitive though it may be), and your expectations need to be, well, variable.

Your first and most important job is to not cause the situation to get worse. 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 an especially hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been known to cause all kinds of problems and complications, from infection to hearing loss). You will most likely worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

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

So you may be getting a bit antsy if a couple of days go by and you still have no clue what might be causing your blockage. In almost all cases, your blockage will take care of itself after a few days. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things last for more than a week or so, it may be a wise decision to come see us.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like clogged ears. And you don’t want to ignore hearing loss because, as you’ve probably read in our other posts, it can result in a whole host of other health concerns.

Being cautious not to worsen the problem will usually allow the body to take care of the situation on its own. But when that fails, intervention may be required. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this might take a varying amount of time.

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