Why do my Ears Feel Blocked?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been two days. There’s still complete 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, of course, but only hearing from one direction is leaving you off-balance. You thought it might up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not happening. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

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

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

When Does a Blocked Ear Become a Worry?

If you’re on day two of a clogged ear, you may start thinking about potential causes. Maybe you’ll think about your activities from the past two or three days: for instance, did you get water in your ear somehow?

You might also examine your health. Do have any symptoms of an ear infection? You may want to make an appointment if that’s the situation.

This line of questioning is merely a starting point. A clogged ear could have multiple potential causes:

  • The eustachian tube or ear canal gets water trapped in it: Sweat and water can become stuck in the tiny places inside your ear with alarming ease. (If you often sweat copiously, this can certainly end up blocking your ears temporarily).
  • Build-up of earwax: Earwax can cause blockages if it’s not effectively draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, lumps, and bulges which can even block your ears.
  • Air pressure variations: On occasion, 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.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all interconnected, a sinus infection can create excess fluids to become stuck in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can bring about fluid buildup and inflammation that eventually obstructs your ears.
  • Allergies: Various pollen allergies can spark the body’s immune system reaction, which will then generate fluid and swelling.
  • Irreversible hearing impairment: A blocked ear and some types of irreversible hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. You need to make an appointment if your “clogged ear” lasts longer than it should.

The Fastest Way to Get Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will probably go back to normal after a couple of days if the blockage is caused by air pressure. You may need to wait for your immune system to kick in if your blockage is caused by an ear infection (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can be very helpful). This may take up to a couple of weeks. You might have to wait even longer than that if you’re suffering from a sinus infection.

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

Your first and most important task is to not cause the situation to get worse. When you first begin to feel like your ears are clogged, 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 issues and difficulties, 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 could be the cause of your blockage. A few days is usually enough time for your body to eliminate any blockage. But the general rule of thumb is that if things persist for more than a week or so, it might be a smart decision to come in for a consultation.

That feeling of blocked ears can also be a sign of hearing loss. 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.

Doing no additional damage first will allow your body a chance to heal and clear that blockage away naturally. But when that fails, intervention could be required. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this may take a varying amount of time.

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.