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Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been two days. Your right ear is still completely clogged. The last time you were able to hear anything on that side was yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, naturally, but only being able to hear from a single direction leaves you off-balance. You thought it might up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not the case. So, how long will your ear remain clogged?

Precisely how long your blockage will persist depends, not surprisingly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages go away by themselves and somewhat quickly at that; others may persist and require medical intervention.

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

When Should I Worry About a Blocked Ear?

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

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

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

  • Permanent hearing loss: Some forms of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. You need to make an appointment if your “blocked ear” persists longer than it should.
  • Changes in air pressure: If the pressure in the air changes all of a sudden, your eustachian tube can fail to adjust which can temporarily cause obstruction.
  • Earwax accumulation: Earwax can lead to blockages if it’s not effectively draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become clogged by fluid accumulation or inflammation due to an ear infection.
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, bulges, and lumps which can even block your ears.
  • Water stuck in the eustachian tube or ear canal: The tiny areas in the ear are alarmingly efficient at capturing water and sweat. (If you often sweat profusely, this can definitely end up temporarily blocking your ears).
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to accumulate in your ears because your ears, nose and throat are all connected (causing a clog).
  • Allergies: Various pollen allergies can spark the body’s immune system reaction, which in turn cause swelling and fluid.

How to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal as Fast as You Can

Your ears will probably go back to normal after a couple of days if air pressure is causing your blockage. If an ear infection is to blame for your blocked ears, you might have to wait until your body fights off the virus or bacteria at work (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can really help). This could take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections have been known to last even longer.

Getting your ears back to normal as fast as you can, then, will often involve some patience (though that may feel counterintuitive), and you should be able to modify your expectations according to your exact circumstances.

Your first and most important task is to not make the situation worse. When you first start to feel like your ears are plugged, it might be tempting to try and use cotton swabs to clear them out. All kinds of problems, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be an extremely dangerous strategy. If you use a cotton swab, you’re probably going to make things worse.

If Your Ear is Still Blocked After a Week…it Might be Hearing Loss

So, if your ear remains blocked on day two and you don’t have any really great ideas as to what’s causing it, you may be reasonably impatient. A few days is usually enough time for your body to eliminate any blockage. But it might be, as a basic rule of thumb, a prudent idea to come see us if your blockage persists for more than a week.

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

Being cautious not to worsen the issue will usually allow the body to take care of the situation on its own. But intervention could be required when those natural means fail. How long that takes will vary depending on the root cause of your clogged ears.

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